The Ups and Downs of Online Training

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Of the many challenges we are currently facing, one that is vitally important is the continuing of our graduate engineer’s training. 

How are we continuing our program?

Since we have been working from home, the only way to continue with our graduate program is to use online training. We are utilising Microsoft Teams to host online tutorials to work through basic signalling training. Our graduates are given material beforehand to preview and prepare for the workshops. Our workshops are generally two hours long and consist of an initial lecture style presentation followed by some real-life examples and exercises. We give our graduates exercises to complete to test their learning of the topic and to cement the processes in their minds. Last week our graduates completed Section 8 – Interlockings, for this our graduates were given an example control table to fill out.

Speaking to one of our graduate engineers, Nathan Murphy, we have identified some areas that online learning is very effective and some areas that are lacking.

The positives

Microsoft Teams has a number of useful features which are designed to make online meetings just as good as in-person meetings. In particular we are making good use of the screen sharing features to give PowerPoint presentations, go through diagrams and show pictures. This brings the online experience much closer to a face to face interaction than a simple conference call would. Another advantage of our online training is the flexibility it provides our staff who are teaching each section. Currently we have four staff leading workshops, our three directors along with Neil Shineton. With these online tools we are no longer limited to being within our office to provide workshops. This means that workshops can be provided from home or from an on-sight location, such as a testing room, at any time that is convenient.

The Drawbacks 

Unfortunately, there are some areas where technology falls short of a match for a face to face meeting. An office space can be much more conducive to group learning and collaboration. Our graduates feel that, when in the office, they can more effectively share ideas and work together to problem solve. Technology provides us with a tool that can replace face to face interactions when necessary but doesn’t seem to be as effective as sitting side by side with a colleague to work out a problem.

Despite the drawbacks, Microsoft Teams is providing an effective temporary replacement for group meetings. Meaning that our graduates do not have to wait until we return to the office and can continue their training while working from home.