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Aviation Training, What Exactly is the ‘New Norm’?

“The New Normal”, “The Zoom-Boom”, and “Online Learning” are all terms which we have become very familiar with during 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But how can we embrace the positives associated with the increased use of technology with particular focus on the future of education in aviation? In this article we will explore the opportunities that have been generated through necessity, as traditional training methodologies have been severely challenged by the strictures associated with managing the risk of Coronavirus.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were numerous studies on the benefits of distance learning and the maturity of online education in the form on eLearning. Post COVID-19, the prominence of such studies and their outcomes have been supercharged as such methods have superseded traditional training delivery techniques.

People’s perception of distance learning alternatives to traditional classroom-based learning vary. For a start there is an absolute plethora of terms such as online learning, eLearning, distance learning, distance education etc. Of which everybody has a different perception.

In simple terms, distance learning can be defined as follows:

‘A method of study in which lectures are broadcast or lessons are conducted by correspondence, without the student needing to attend a school or college.’

Effectively, distance learning delivery can be broken down into two main approaches which could still be blended into a hybrid solution.

Synchronous Distance Learning

  • Synchronous means “at the same time.” It refers to a method of education delivery that happens in real-time and requires live communication for instance online. It uses technology, such as teleconferencing, to achieve this.
  • Synchronous learning by its very nature is of course less flexible as students must meet with their instructor and classmates at pre-scheduled times.
    This approach also limits the student’s ability to learn at their own pace and in their own space and time.

Asynchronous Distance Learning

  • In asynchronous distance learning, students may receive clusters of weekly deadlines. They have the freedom to work in their own space and time and at their own speed.
  • Students can access course content beyond the scheduled meeting or class times but still interact flexibly with peers through online conversations, quizzes, or videos.

The advantages and disadvantages of distance learning have been widely publicised in the past. What is equally important are people’s motivations for undertaking distance learning, particularly in the online environment. The following provides some insight into the main driving factors:

When considered in the context of our industry, it can clearly be seen that the motivating factors of the individuals in this case pretty much mirror what companies would require from such a solution. However, where it can be argued that training providers have failed so far, is in the direct engagement of education specialists, not necessarily aviation subject matter experts, to utilise the significant learning science at our disposal in the design and deployment of such solutions.

For instance, how many times have we seen training providers put a PDF document online and called it a ‘distance learning solution’? I guess it might be hosted on a server some distance away but that’s about as far as it goes in meeting the potential customer aspirations identified above!

During the pandemic and with necessity being the mother of invention, there have already been some identifiable successes of training providers being forced away from traditional delivery methodologies. For example, experienced students that had previously been required to travel to attend ‘open’ courses for EASA Part-66 modular training, produced better pass rates when experiencing essentially the same training delivery but via Zoom software and being based at home.

Notwithstanding the obvious financial advantages of not having to pay for travel and accommodation, student feedback also identified the following:

  • The learning experience was less stressful as they were in their familiar environment.
  • There was less direct peer pressure encouraging more students to ask questions.
  • They were not subject to other distractions and stress raisers such as being in unfamiliar accommodation, disruption of sleep patterns, getting to and from the training centre, even basic things such as the sourcing of meals!

Interestingly, the same could not be said for apprentice new starters whose pass rates dipped slightly when training delivery was conducted remotely.

This proves that one size can never fit all, and that education science is and will become increasingly critical in finding the most appropriate solution for each peer group, never has the opportunity for innovation been more apparent. In our experience we seem to be very good at ‘training’ in our industry but perhaps less so at ‘education’?

With meticulous and outcome-based design of any distance learning offering, the incorporation of learning science methodologies and a pedagogical approach, we will undoubtedly be able to design and deploy distance learning programmes that are above all engaging and that provide individuals with the maximum chance of success.

We must however also recognise the financial challenges facing our industry on an individual and corporate basis, factor number one when choosing a distance learning solution is affordability.

There are of course some good quality distance learning solutions out there albeit they may not necessarily have utilised learning science as much as they might, but how many of them would an aspiring Certifying Technician or Pilot living and working anywhere in the world be able to afford?

With that point in mind, if we are to secure the future of our industry by opening pathways to qualifications for all individuals, regardless of location or background, we must embrace the opportunity to create the effective and affordable distance learning solutions of the future.

Click on the latest Regional International publication (by the European Regions Airline Association) to view our article and read the full magazine.

Distance Learning

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