The Use of Virtual Reality (VR) in Aviation Courses
VR technology allows us to visualise an environment from a full 360-degree angle with an immersive experience. Its adoption in different industries has become popular in recent years. What are the use and prospects of VR in education? The E-learning Team interviewed Dr Lam Sai Ming, Senior Programme Director of the College of Life Sciences and Technology, on 3 July 2017. He explained the needs and the planning of using VR in aviation programmes. Below are the questions and his answers.
Why do the aviation programmes use VR as E-Learning pedagogy?
In the aviation industry, there is a trend of developing and implementing VR systems. For example, the Hong Kong Airport Authority (AA) is now utilising VR to strengthen procedural training and to make students adapt to aviation safety.
Among our four award-bearing programmes, including Applied Learning and Higher Diploma programmes, there are almost 1,000 students annually. It is quite difficult for us to apply for access permits and not feasible to arrange all students to visit and practise in the airport’s restricted areas. Thus, the use of VR is indispensable and economical.
In addition, many teachers find VR useful in their visual flight training. The old style of teaching was to look at the slides and photos. Nowadays, with the use of VR, students can ‘visualise’ the real environment beforehand. Being more familiar with the landscape and environment, they will have less panic during their flying practices. Besides, teachers find VR more comprehensive to communicate with students. Therefore, VR is a necessary tool in our training programme.
How do you plan to use VR in your programmes?
The implementation of VR in our programmes is divided into several stages. We have just finished the first stage and started the second stage. In the first stage, we developed a taster system to collect user feedback for the subsequent stages of development.
Procedural training can be conducted through VR, including pilot training. In the absence of a physical cockpit, students can utilise VR to practise the pre-flight checking process with a virtual cockpit control panel. VR creates an environment of procedural training, which enhances students’ memories and experiences. In the aviation profession, VR training is deeply entrenched.
Furthermore, the Hong Kong International Aviation Academy established by the HKAA will sign a memorandum with us – this is a breakthrough in the development of VR as more restricted areas in the airport will be included in our research and we can transfer them to a VR platform for a new training and learning package.
Use of VR in Aviation Courses
As you are in the development stage, what is your advice to Programme Teams which may experiment with VR in E-learning?
We have to bear in mind that the development is an iterative review process. Teachers, students, and even professionals are required to participate in each stage of the review. The participation of all stakeholders is necessary for us to improve the system.
Moreover, the use of VR has to conform to the nature and learning needs of different programmes. Programme Teams need to identify the difficulties in their teaching and learning and sort out solutions to close these gaps. For us, our objective is very clear as the aviation procedures are systematic and focus on details; practical training under authentic environment will greatly enhance the learning effectiveness.
Dr Lam Sai Ming