Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): These technological advancements are positively disrupting approaches to all kinds of traditional processes, such as cargo training, in this case. CargoForwarder Global spoke to the Co-Chairman of VR/RA Association, Brian Parzer, to understand more on what is changing.
CFG: What is the VR/AR Association?
BP: The VR/AR Association (VRARA) is an international organization designed to foster collaboration between innovative companies and brands in the VR and AR ecosystem that accelerates growth, fosters research and education, helps develop industry standards, connects member organizations, and promotes the services of member companies. As the use of VR/AR is still fairly new in all industries, it makes sense that those with experience and success come together on a global scale to bring the entire movement forward and at a high level. Therefore, like-mind individuals come together every 2 weeks to share, exchange information, and network.
There are various Industry Verticals in VRARA, such as Training, for which I am a co-chairman.
CFG: Is VR/AR changing the way companies train employees?
BP: Yes, VR/AR is definitely changing the way companies are training employees. It adds a new dimension to classroom trainings, as well as offers new options on a remote basis. We are no longer limited to web-based trainings, when speaking of remote training.
CFG: What are the benefits of VR/AR?
BP: With AR, I am able to add a 3D object into a classroom training, for everyone to see and work/learn with. With VR, I can place a participant into a virtual room/situation and put them through a learning sequence. In both cases, we are able to train in a secure environment, offering identical and learning controlled trainings to all employees.
There are some interesting statistics supporting learning with VR/AR:
- 2.3x increased emotional connection to content: It is one thing to take part in a classroom training with other participants, and it is another thing to go through a web-based training. With VR/AR, you use more senses to learn, thus increasing your emotional connection to the subject matter, and improving the chance of remembering and using what you have learned.
- 4x faster training completion compared to classroom: In a classroom setting, it takes time to teach the subject, practice it, and then review it. With VR/AR you can combine these learning processes which definitely increases not just the speed of learning, but also the capacity.
- 275% more confidence in applying the new skills: In a standard classroom setting, participants learn, practice and successfully passes a test. However, they miss the practical implementation of what they learned. VR/AR enables them to practice this skill too, which better prepares them for subsequent application in daily work.
CFG: How, in particular, is it being employed in cargo trainings?
BP: I have been involved in AR/VR training conception since mid-2018, in my trainer function at the Lufthansa Cargo Training Academy. Currently, we have two rolled-out trainings using VR/AR, as well as one we are developing for 2021.
The first concept was developed as an AR Build-Up course designed to meet IATA requirements for automobile build-up for air transport. Given than most classrooms are not large enough to hold a vehicle, and it is not always possible to get all participants into a secured warehouse to see an automobile build-up (as this does not happen every day), I used AR to bring an automobile as a 3D into the classroom. This was our first venture into AR-training, which was supported by the Lufthansa Group Innovation Fund, and co-developed with an AR-vendor called 3spin, located in Darmstadt, Germany. The project was piloted several times in the first half of 2019 with much success. The failure rate went from 36% to 7% on the piloted trainings: a number I could have never imagined.
CFG: Why do you think that was?
BP: The training had such great success because the staff who build-up cargo for air transport, are individuals who learn best by doing, and they work in teams on a daily basis. Therefore, I combined these elements into the training. The automobile is brought into the classroom as a 3D object, enabling the staff to learn in a secured/safe environment. I split the class into teams of 4, and each person receives a Microsoft Hololens to wear, along with a personal coaching session on how to operate and navigate the Hololens. Working with each individual group of 4, I guide them through the task of securing the automobile for airlift using the tie-down strap (which is also a 3D object). Each participant gets one tire to work with and secures the tire to the pallet using the techniques they learned in the theoretical part of the course. Everyone sees the same car, and can see what their colleagues are doing. That means they can also help each other out during the session, just like in real life. Combining learning by doing with teamwork in a real-life setting within a secure training atmosphere brings out the best in the participants.
By the way, for this project we were awarded the eLearning Journal Award both for the best Augmented Reality Project in 2020, as well as the Best Project of 2020, and I have been invited as a guest speaker at many events and fairs since then.
CFG: Congratulations, Brian! You mentioned a second and third concept?
BG: Yes. With the second concept, we developed a 360-degree tour of our B777F Freighter. Since many course participants have never been inside the freighter, such a tour is crucial to an employee’s overall training. If a participant cannot visualize what we are teaching, it makes it more difficult for them to connect to and retain the subject being taught. For this, we use the Oculus Quest (VR). Wearing the headset, each participant can tour the freighter at their leisure. Along the way, there are hot spots that they can click on and learn information and facts. Once they complete the tour and know how it looks and functions, they are ready to continue learning about the freighter in a classroom training.
Our third concept currently being developed, is focused on sales. Though sales staff are unable to come to our training headquarters during the pandemic, we still want to teach them the art of making a sales visit. We are creating avatars that are able to react to the words of the participant. The participant will have a choice of sentences to pick from, and depending on what they pick, the avatar will hear the sentence and react in a life-like way. The participant will have the opportunity to take the session often, trying out different options, and learning from their outcomes. I expect this to be a hair-raising event that the participant will soon not forget!
CFG: Has cargo training changed due to the pandemic?
BP: Yes, the pandemic has, of course, also created issues for us in training. The majority of the participants cannot travel to the training headquarters, nor are trainers able to get to them. Since the pandemic reached us quickly, we were limited in the amount of time we had to react and offer solutions/options. We now offer a blended learning concept, using web-based trainings in combination with webinars. These are seen as temporary solutions, until classroom trainings are available again. Long-term, we will continue to offer international colleagues various training options, to allow us and the participants to be able to choose the best possible learning method at that time. Digitalization is here, it has proven to work, and will guide us for the years to come. In the end, we as trainers, will do our utmost to teach our participants as best as possible.
CFG: What have your major learnings been as a trainer over the years?
BP: After 17 years of working for Lufthansa Cargo in New York, I decided to live my dream of becoming a Lufthansa Cargo trainer, at the Training Academy in Seeheim, Germany. That was in 2012. Now almost 10 years later, I definitely have seen the evolution of our trainings in this time, as well as influenced the VR/AR movement myself.
There are several things that are important to me:
- I believe in having an imaginary toolbox that I can go to at any situation. This allows me to react situationally to the moment and the participant(s). This comes with experience.
- Think out of the box.
- Know your participants, and find the best way to reach them.
- Be open to new ways.
Here are some mottos I hold:
- Strive for perfection, but perfection is to learn from one’s mistakes
- Trainer is human, so are participants.
- There is never a dumb question. The smartest people in the world ask the most questions.
Thank you for your insights, Brian. I look forward to following your association’s developments over on LinkedIn.
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