In a recent interview with Andrew Taylor, Driver Training Policy Manager at Great Western Railway (GWR), Andrew discusses how the new Class 387 Tablet Simulator app will revolutionise the way staff engage with simulation learning on their mobile devices.
As an industry, railway undertakings’ competence management activities tend to be ‘top down’. Driven by a requirement for rigorous, compliance-based competence management, development activities and assessments are undertaken on a periodic basis, driven by event windows in competence management systems. This discourages individual ownership of competence, as training is seen as something that is ‘done to you’. Reflection on performance needs to happen more regularly to sharpen non-technical skills. Learning opportunities need to be ‘on demand’, rather than just scheduled.
Current full-cab simulator training is formally scheduled twice every 3 years for experienced GWR drivers, and there would be a significant cost to the business to release drivers for additional events. Furthermore, for the Class 387 we only have one full cab simulator, so it’s a limited resource. With it also being the backbone of the driver conversion programme, CMS training and development on it needs to be organised and scheduled well in advance.
We wanted to build on the development drivers gain from full-cab simulator events for degraded and emergency scenarios, making it easy and enjoyable for drivers to try scenarios at a time and pace that suits them, with an overall objective of mitigating skills and knowledge fade. Drivers can make errors and learn from them in a safe environment. The nature of the tablet app brings an element of ‘serious games’ to competence management, where they can learn in bite-sized chunks at a time and pace that suits themselves.
Drivers within GWR have had personal issue tablets for a while. The aim of the Class 387 Tablet Simulator app is to complement the full-cab simulator, but more importantly it is a portable tool to encourage individuals to manage their own competence in an easy and engaging way, delivering measurable improvements in safety and performance.
3DVSL created the Class 387 Tablet Simulator app through an iterative design approach. We discussed the learning objective and refined the technical requirements to make the app fully user-friendly. Having worked with 3DVSL previously, I can confidently say they are engaging, flexible and practical with a real ‘can-do’ attitude. Their industry experience enables them to challenge our thinking and suggest practical improvements to get the best results.
3DVSL also decided to speak with other people in the industry to find out what they would want from an industry-led solution. This brought new ideas and thinking to the table. Working closely with the 3DVSL team to make sure the learning narrative was reflected in the technical development was quite a challenge. By using an iterative approach, we’ve achieved outstanding results and created a unique solution that works to address our internal challenges and meets the wider industry needs.
The output is a tablet simulation of Class 387 with simplified controls and an integrated fully operational 3D model of the drivers cab that enables the driver to test a wide range of challenging scenarios.
We are currently rolling out the app and are actively encouraging different people within the organisation to try it and provide their feedback. Once we’ve introduced the app, we’ll look at ways of measuring the benefits. If used properly, I’m sure it will increase drivers’ confidence in dealing with degraded and emergency situations. We may even be able to use it to help other roles, such as control room staff’s ability to empathise with the driver’s viewpoint.
The Class 387 Tablet Simulator is ultimately about driving safety and performance improvements throughout the whole business, but specifically it will complement our full-cab simulator as drivers will have the ability to get feedback and hints during each scenario which is less easy on the full cab simulator. It also provides a level of consistency through which to get across high level safety messages and our aim is to include it within safety briefings for competence management.
Future plans are to further develop the app to include an interface to monitor and analyse app usage on the scenarios being used to understand better where competence needs are being identified. This intelligence will help us provide support to individuals in the areas required and is a medium for drivers to identify their own competence needs and ask for help.
This is a new, innovative and engaging tool that really reflects the considerable development time spent on it. It will have a significant impact throughout the railway industry. There’s a recognition in the industry that non-technical skills are a contributing factor to many operational incidents and as the Class 387 Tablet Simulator app is a scenario-based learning tool it is ideal for maintaining and sharpening non-technical skills.
3DVSL have been excellent to work with. Their diligence, industry and procedural knowledge coupled with the creative and development process will ensure this app meets our learning and competence objectives.