Background and Business Need

Imagine this: You’re on an aircraft, an emergency has been declared, and the pilots are fumbling to figure out how to resolve the emergency.

This is virtually impossible—not the emergency, but the fact that the pilots wouldn’t know how to handle the situation. Pilots today are highly equipped:

  1. Pilots always have an easily accessible checklist for every kind of emergency
  2. They are trained rigorously and regularly to handle any abnormal or emergency situation related to the aircraft they’re flying

Our client is a worldwide leader in training for the commercial, civil, and defense aviation. They offer novice (initial) and experienced (recurrent) pilots a wide variety of advanced training programs covering different types of aircrafts.

They were looking to expand their pilot training program by including a digital, distance learning (D-Learning) course. This training program was targeted at recurrent pilots, i.e., pilots who have flown the King Air 350i before and need to be re-certified.

The clients had several requirements for development of the course:

  • The course should provide a high-level description of the aircraft systems and normal operations, and focus on abnormal and emergency procedures, and airplane limitations
  • The entire course (approximately 1000 hours of technical learning material) should be developed within a three-month timeframe
  • The course should be easy to maintain and the content should be easy to edit as the FAA could introduce changes in guidelines at any time

Our client required a digital training solution that would aid recurrent pilots in taking the recertification exam to fly the King Air 350i.

Challenges

We faced two major challenges related to the nature of the content and timeframe of development.

  1. As inputs, the client shared the operational manual for the airplane (KingAir 350i) and existing material developed for the instructor-led training. The content was highly technical in nature, as the manual described the different systems of the airplane, normal, abnormal, emergency, and servicing and handling procedures and listed the limitations of each system. The challenge was to find interesting ways to deliver this content to a target audience who is already familiar with it.
  2. Without FAA approval, our client wouldn’t be able to deploy the distance-learning program; therefore, we had to meet the approval date shared by the FAA. This made the project development extremely time sensitive. To ensure that our client met the deadline, we made several important decisions:
    • Ramp up our team
    • Use a rapid authoring tool for development
    • Design custom templates that could be reused across all modules

Solution

In response to the business need and challenges, our team at Cenveo Learning took a varied approach:

  • Analyze the content
  • Consult multiple subject matter experts for additional inputs
  • Employ different strategies to deliver the content in an engaging way

With respect to determining the learning strategy, we treated the nature of the content and the learners’ existing knowledge of the airplane and procedures as important factors while developing the approach for the course.

With respect to the visual design, we designed the skin/look and feel based on the client’s requirement of a “retro look” that could appeal to old and young pilots taking the course.

Solution Highlights

To expedite module delivery, we chose to develop the course using Articulate Storyline 360, a commonly used course-authoring tool. Additionally, the tool provided our client cost-effective maintainability. Since Storyline access is easy, maintaining the course would be painless.

The course comprised 18 modules, where each module represented one of the airplane’s systems. To ensure content accuracy, we followed the operational manual and constantly consulted a subject matter expert when queries arose. We used a combination of presentation templates, different interactivity templates, scenario-based presentations, and gamified activities to deliver the content.

For the non-critical content, we used a quiz-based approach to test for recall and comprehension of the information. For the critical content, we used more application-based and gamified activities (considering Storyline capabilities) to further engage learners and ensure they have more practice opportunities.

The two critical sections of the course were Abnormal and Emergency Procedures and Limitations. Per the client, recurrent pilots need to commit to memory the steps for each procedure and the details of each limitation. We designed the learning for these two sections in an engaging and instructionally sound way to ensure that learners were adequately focused and thoroughly tested.

Important Features of the Abnormal and Emergency Procedures Section

We designed all the activities in the abnormal and emergency procedure section to ensure that learners could accomplish crucial tasks:

  • Identify the situation immediately by seeing the indication or CAS message
  • Locate the relevant panels, switches, and buttons for the procedure
  • Memorize and practice each procedure enough to remember at least the first four steps (a client requirement)

The timed, gamified activities not only provided additional practice opportunities, but also tested the learners’ memory of the procedure under duress. The time limits set for each activity mimicked the time a pilot would have to respond in an emergency.

Given that the learners were already familiar with the airplane and related procedures, we presented the content in a no-nonsense and straightforward way, i.e., we didn’t embellish the instructional content with too many scenarios.

  • Important procedures were presented as videos and reiterated through activities
  • Simpler procedures (identified by the client) were presented with short comic book style scenarios to hook learners and provide some context

Important Features of the Limitations Section

In spite of the fact that flashcards have a reputation of being one of the most dated study techniques, using flashcards for the Limitations section was a purposeful choice. Simply because they work!

  • Flashcards encourage active recall; learners are forced to think about the answer to a question rather than identifying the answer in an MCQ lineup
  • They also encourage the use of learners’ metacognitive facilities, i.e., learners not only attempt to guess the answer, but also think about how well they remembered the answer, and how their answer compared to the correct one

All these factors aid a deeper understanding of the content and recall — a chief requirement from this section.

Outcomes

The result was resounding success!

We were able to complete the development in time enabling our client to acquire the FAA approval required to deploy the course.

Apart from this, learners who took the distance-learning course followed by the instructor-led training fared better on the written assessment administered prior to the flight simulator test than those who only opted for the instructor-led training.

Learners’ recall of the procedures during the flight simulator test was 47% higher when compared to previous instances.

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