What does training with the use of immersive technologies look like? Let’s find out using the example of a mobile simulator for TVET students training for the profession of an electrician, specialized in the repair and maintenance of the equipment at an electric power plant.
Looking at the virtual interface, it looks more like a computer game than standard educational training material. On the screen of a PC, tablet or smartphone, a virtual instructor guides us through an electric power substation, stops near various pieces of equipment and explains its purpose and features. To use the immersive technology in the classroom or at home, the user needs to clear the space around them, to be able to move around freely and to display every virtual item near him or herself. Like in real life, the instructor will explain in detail the work stations, the equipment, their operating principles and the related occupational safety hazards and measures. While the user can listen to the explanations of the substation facilities, the respective parts will be illuminated on the screen. After a first explorative walk through the power plant, the student must perform a series of tasks under the virtual instructor’s supervision. These include potentially dangerous situations, including the possible exposure to high voltage. The simulated environment offers an opportunity to practice in a potentially hazardous work environment while keeping the student 100% safe. Immersive technologies therefore offer a safe environment to prepare students for real life work-situations.
The four simulators were developed with the support of the ILO, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, Vocational Education and Training schools, and Regional Methodological Centres for TVET. The technical development team is led by Yurii Zuban, Head of the e-Learning Technology Centre of Sumy State University.
The four simulators will be piloted as of November 2021 at four vocational education schools. They will be placed free of charge at Play Market and App Store and be available for more than 67 000 students from across Ukraine, studying in these four occupations. Students will be able to access the simulators through smartphones and computers during their classes, as well as for their homework.
Immersive technologies in education
Immersive technologies are technologies which use virtual and augmented reality and help apprehend and absorb information much better. They bring the training process as close as possible to an actual work setting. The Covid-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for gradually introducing immersive technologies in education in Ukraine, which is a trend that can also be observed in many countries around the world.
It is important to note that digital technologies will not be able to fully substitute real work environments. However, given a correct combination of online and offline methods, they can multiply the effectiveness of conventional training, and significantly complement existing curricula and training processes, thereby improving the learning transfer to the learner. To this end teachers and trainers must undergo capacity building, to understand how to introduce training simulators in a meaningful way into the learning process.“There are no ready-made algorithms of how to make virtual reality part of a curriculum anywhere. Therefore, we are by ourselves searching for effective approaches to implementation of such technologies into every educational programme, discipline, or subject,” Yurii Zuban says.
Safe environments and the right to make mistakes
A key advantage of using simulators is the possibility of continuously repeating, and therefore better mastering, a sequence of work processes. This includes the possibility to make mistakes without undesired consequences. Due to immersion into virtual - but to the maximum extent realistic - situations, the student internalizes the causal steps and connections of standard work processes.
The virtual simulators will become an integral part of “blended learning” processes (the combination of presential and virtual learning) in TVET instruction in Ukraine. Moreover, with a fourth pandemic wave approaching, the simulators will form an essential part of the instruction during quarantine restrictions, which may complicate access to training venues. They will hence enable TVET continuity during the pandemic and represent a valuable experience in how to shape the modernization of TVET in Ukraine.