Jaime Zapata
Corporate Manager of Training and Development
Expert Contributor

Can Distance Learning Work for Aeronautical Technical Training?

By Jaime Zapata | Fri, 06/12/2020 - 09:41

The almost daily vertiginous transformation of society in the 21st century has turned the world upside down. Disruptive products, services and technologies appear every day at a pace difficult for many to follow and easy for others to adopt. Ultimately, we all face the visualization of an increasingly complex reality, seasoned by the changes that lead us to a "new normal," that complicates the situation even further. The training environment of Mexico's aeronautical industry is no exception.

During my formative years, a great teacher told me something that has marked my professional development ever since: “Jaime, the only constant thing that you will surely come across in life is change and there are two options either you learn to handle it or you fall behind. ” I opted for the first option.

Unfortunately, the fact that a person learns to deal with change and uncertainty does not necessarily imply that other people, CEOs, managers, companies or government institutions will respond quickly to adapt to changes that happen practically overnight, going from one reality to another; or worse, from one hour to the next.    

The personal or institutional capacity to respond quickly, with agility, timeliness and pertinence, to a problematic situation in theory leads to positive results: resolve the situation and continue walking, make amendments along the way and pray that it works. Unfortunately, we cannot overlook the obstacles during the process.    

In the aeronautical industry in Mexico, courses for aeronautical technical personnel traditionally are taught in person. Although this has many advantages (based on the fact that not everything can be learned through virtual means), in many cases the process of course authorization takes time, which prevents updates from being carried out at the same time, with the necessary speed. This has profound impacts on the operation, since it is necessary to get the participants to take the training in some cases for several weeks.

Given the reality posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are presented with a scenario that has had strong economic repercussions in the aeronautical industry: most of the administrative and operational staff went home from one day to the next, and thanks to technology, we continue to work remotely. However, the real question was what are we doing with the training?
Many industries rapidly turned to online education. In the case of Mexico's aeronautical industry, videoconferencing has provided the flexibility to deliver distance teaching.

This change in reality should, in my perspective, open up the possibility of exploring whether training in this industry can change toward a scheme that enables the transformation of the regulated normative training offer into a mix of virtual and face-to-face training.

This scheme would allow collaborators to study the theoretical content through online education and reduce the days of attendance to those necessary to carry out the technical practices that by their nature require the development of skills and abilities of manual operation.

Beyond using videoconferencing as the only resource to deliver distance training, the bet on a redesign of each of the courses would be based on the formation of training itineraries based on microlearning (videos, infographics, electronic magazines, learning modules, among others), the delivery of evidence and learning activities (which would help with the evaluation of the participant's performance, eliminating evaluations based only on exams) under the guidance of a virtual instructor who would follow up on the training (guide, facilitator and participant feedback) using a technological platform for learning management.

Distance education is not new. It is the transformative extension of correspondence courses that were focused on printed material and delivered via regular mail to the formation of very well-planned educational offers using disruptive technologies such as the Flexible Learning Model. Now, you have access to online multimedia resources through the internet, teleconferencing for the transmission of audio and video, as well as technological tools for collaborative work. The newest representation is the Intelligent Flexible Learning Model, where you have access to virtual campuses with all educational processes delivered online and intelligent automatic response and learning systems.

Formal online academic courses and educational offerings are gaining more ground, both in demand and in recognition. This is because they are ideal for today's training needs. So, why not apply it to normative aeronautical training?
For this to happen, it is necessary to adopt educational models that are flexible, efficient and effective, supported by technology and grounded in an instructional design that contemplates and emphasizes critical knowledge, complemented with an agile, practical component. This will provide collaborators with the desired training that they can then transfer to their working reality and, at the same time, reduce attendance requirements, which has a positive impact on the operation.

The new reality that we will face with the new normality forces us to take advantage of our creativity and combine it with our experience to propose solutions to the problem of face-to-face aeronautical training. The commitment to the design of an online offer for the training of aeronautical technical personnel is still on the table ... we will see what happens.

Photo by:   Jaime Zapata