Teaching vocational skills to students thousands of miles away may seem like a tall order, but a recently launched project seeks to do precisely that.
This ambitious e-learning initiative is drawing on global talent to offer distance training to students in skills such as welding and industrial process control.
The ultimate goal is to provide e-coaching in several other manufacturing-related skills as well.
WorldSkills is a global non-profit outfit whose members include organizations active in vocational education and training in their respective countries.
The recently concluded Samsung-WSI pilot was a “train the trainer” venture.
Its aim was to use the tremendous talent within Korea, in areas such as e-learning and vocational skills, to instruct trainers in India within the welding and industrial process control sectors.
For starters, a training team was set up, headed by Ji Oh Song, vice-president of Samsung Electronics in Korea.
The pilot was launched in March, this year, and a tight timeline of five months was set for its completion.
In that time the Korean training team started to share best practices, advanced skills, and know-how with the people they were coaching in India, said Song.
He said the training modules included a couple of learning packages – one directed at the welding sector, and the other at the industrial control sector.
For both modules, a variety of remote training methods were applied.
A pilot takes off
In India too, much spade work needed to be done to get the pilot off the ground.
Song noted that seven local training centres were set up in key Indian cities.
Each centre was staffed with 10 administrative personnel and 21 trainers, who were coached by experts in Korea.
He said six centres focused on industrial process control as the majority of students (261 in all) enrolled for this course.
One centre was dedicated to the welding module and its 25 students. Both courses lasted two months, but the welding course also included a second month of practical training.
Course materials were made available to the students online and offline as well, Song noted.
Online materials, he said, included streaming videos of detailed demos, instruction provided in animated form, and WorldSkills Competition tasks. (At these competitions – held every two years – hundreds of young people from across the world, accompanied by their teachers and trainers, gather together to compete in the skills of their respective trades).
During the pilot – which concluded in June – online lectures were given by experts who were award winners in past WorldSkills Competitions in welding and industrial process control.
“Offline” materials included trainer-guided practical exercises with related handbooks that could be downloaded from the training site.
Post-course reviews conducted among participants in India were heartening.
The online training was highly rated – from 82 to 84 per cent – and great appreciation was expressed for the course material. The highest rating was given to effectiveness of offline, practical material.
Song said that based on these findings Samsung made several recommendations.
For instance, he said, the practical exercises need to be made more effective. “It seems the content of the overall pilot was also challenging for most participants.”
Another suggestion was that minimum threshold skill levels be set for participants. Similar threshold levels could also be set for trainer qualifications, equipment and infrastructure, Song said.
E-learning Big Bang?
These suggestions are likely to be incorporated in the WSI e-Learning Certificate Program (final draft) to be unveiled next year.
Moving forward, many more vocational skills will be covered by the e-Learning project when it is implemented globally, via a special WorldSkills International portal.
When this happens it will be a huge win for distance industrial vocational training, according to Michelle Warren, founder and President of MW Research & Consulting (MWRC).
Warren’s firm offers consulting services to technology firms.
“This is only the beginning,” she said. “It is a big task, but soon the expertise in gaming interactive technology and screen technology will come together in Big Bang.”