Learning management systems are increasingly capable platforms. Technology enhancements allow LMSs to better manage and create, and track and report learning throughout a professional’s continuum of learning, reports Group Editor Marty Kauchak.

New and enhanced learning management systems (LMSs) are entering service throughout civil aviation training organizations. These systems are achieving a higher plateau of performance as flight training devices are more fully integrated into LMS architectures and other trends evolve.

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The 2014 WATS was again the venue for representatives across a broad swath of the simulation and training (S&T) industry to meet with their counterparts and the community customer base.

Tero Arra, Finnair Flight Academy’s head of training for A320/A330/A340 TRI/TRE, and a speaker at WATS, noted the main advantages of an LMS. “Clearly they provide automatic training records and qualification control,” he noted, and added, “Automatic enrolling of courses reduces a workload of planners and follow up needs. Because all studies done by LMS are independent from time and place, there is less need for classroom learning, resulting in savings. It's very flexible from the student's point of view. LMS is also a quick and easy tool to respond to sudden training needs.”

The state-of-the-art in this technology sector typically finds LMSs as part of an overarching training management system. Such is the case at Britannica Knowledge Systems, which delivers an LMS as part of its Fox advanced training management system.

"Airlines and aviation training operations are now seeking an integrative cost-effective training management solution to meet all three essential management challenges: qualification, scheduling and learning," Miki Ringelhim, the company’s vice president for marketing and business development, told CAT.

The industry expert provided his insights from the perspective of supplying the Fox system to diverse global customers including NASA, Boeing Flight Services, Czech Aviation Training Centre and the Royal Canadian Air Force. “These organizations are trying to optimize training operations and enhance learning achievements, while reducing the total cost of ownership. They do this by replacing a variety of cumbersome, disconnected systems with a single, fully integrated and easy-to-use system,” Ringelhim added.

Ringelhim explained the rigor of his customers’ LMSs: "A modern training management solution must incorporate the essential functions of learning management, qualification management, flexible grading tools, and robust scheduling and resource management capabilities."

Finnair’s Arra provided another example of a training organization’s use of an LMS. The airline and the Finnair Flight Academy (FFA) use an LMS which is part of Peak Pacific Group’s Talent Management System. Of note, through the last several years, FFA migrated its learning content delivery media from conventional CBT to online training.

“We use this primarily as an eLearning platform for recurrent ground training. Additionally, we share preliminary information and material of type rating courses via LMS,” he explained, and continued, “About two or three weeks before the course starts the pilot will receive an email which directs him or her to go to the training portal. All the instructions, material, readings are all there – in one place.”

Arra also observed the presence of different LMSs in a training organization’s technology infrastructure and the need to integrate them. “The biggest challenge is variety of operating systems and devices. Also, data integration might be challenging if you have to expand the system to communicate with other systems, like an airline crew management system,” he said. “In an ideal world the training organization will only have one system to cover all of its responsibilities – crew management, training management and learning management, and others,” Arra added.

The training subject matter further commented on the current configuration of most integrated training management systems. “It’s somewhat challenging. If you have a very big system that is covering everything then it might be too complicated to use. If you have a very simple system it might not support all of the requirements and then you need to integrate multiple systems.”

Erik Tobler, the product marketing manager at Aerosim, presented another business development challenge. The subject matter expert noted some training organizations are balancing their requirement for enterprise LMSs with the requirement for unique content, while other companies need a turn-key solution that includes both. “There are different providers of focused content and different providers of LMSs, and a mix in between (including a dynamic set of different deployment platforms). That presents the challenge of how can Aerosim offer a robust LMS with the most relevant content, yet be in a position to offer interactive training tools and courseware to those organizations that want to leverage their existing LMS,” he noted.

In collaborative agreements Aerosim has integrated some of its training content into other providers’ LMSs, to satisfy one set of customer demands.

Aerosim also delivers its own LMS, as an option, with ETHOS Pilot Training. Tobler explained that ETHOS is a platform that harnesses technology to help shift effectiveness earlier in the training continuum. “ETHOS uses the Aerosim LMS to update content and report progress. After a user goes through all of the content and different tools through the LMS, the user can record his or her progress and get credit for that work regardless of if they did the training while online or offline,” he added.

Tobler told CAT that Aerosim would soon deliver customized training content for deployment via Southwest Airlines’ existing LMS.

MINT Media Interactive’s software systems’ portfolio has recently expanded to include an LMS. When Jörg Latteier, the company’s managing director met with CAT at WATS, he indicated his Kiel, Germany-based company’s LMS is responding to the market demand for integrated learning and training management capabilities.

Latteier was asked whether new and enhanced LMSs from MINT and other companies place the community on a better defined trajectory toward integrated systems. “Yes,” the industry leader initially responded and observed, “but on the other hand you will always have customers with existing solutions for learning or training management areas. It’s not only learning management and training management, but these have their links in the crew world to crew scheduling and other needs. You will never have one system that can do it all. There will still be a lot of room for individual solutions and in-between systems.”

Other Trends

Britannica Knowledge Systems’ Ringelhim pointed out another emerging trend in this sector – the adoption of mobile platforms. While training organizations are in the initial stages of understanding the potential of this technology, Britannica has witnessed a wide consensus in two main training uses of mobile devices: delivering lessons and grading. “Lessons and even tests are now required to be fully accessible through mobile devices. Additionally, instructors, especially simulator and flight instructors, are adopting mobile devices for grading and course management. There is a growing demand for mobile offline grading applications for places without connectivity," he emphasized.

Finnair’s Arra corroborated the migration toward mobile learning devices, “The mobile systems are here. I don’t know if we have one pilot at Finnair who does not own an iPad.”

Jim Takats, the president and CEO of newly branded TRU Simulation + Training, commented further on the importance of mobile learning platforms and distributed learning, and also introduced yet another significant development – the more complete integration of full flight simulators (FFSs) and other training devices into LMS architectures.

The industry senior executive pointed out that typically any LMS makes use of standard instructor operating system (IOS) features such as Lesson Plan, Snapshot, Record and Playback, Remote Debrief Utilities and others. While these have all been around for some time, perhaps the only real change is not in the tools themselves but the way they are used. “We now see both fixed and tablet computers and docking stations in the FFS capable of carrying out any of the above tasks as a remote IOS, while at the same time, linking into LMS tools and utilities,” he revealed.

Bruno Cacciola the director of Product Strategy and Marketing, Simulation Products at Civil, CAE, remarked further on integrating training devices into LMSs.

Cacciola was first asked to specify some FFS data of value to an LMS’ end users. He responded that by adopting some of the same principles that airlines use in their flight data monitoring and Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs, data generated by an FFS mission can be used to objectively assess the results of a training session. “Depending on the approach preferred by the airline, this assessment can be done at the aggregate level where pools of data are analyzed to determine trends or at the individual student level.”

The community subject matter expert also told CAT, that in terms of an FFS, CAE is seeing an expanding need to extend the LMS concept beyond administration and tracking – towards the capability to objectively assess the results of a training session. “With the move towards Advanced Qualification Programs (AQP) and Evidence-Based Training, we are seeing an evolving need by our customers to gain further insight into the training effectiveness of FFS sessions. In particular, a need is evolving to improve the efficiency of the pilot training system and reduce operating costs; increase transfer of learning from the simulator to the aircraft; and provide the training system with actionable safety and training information.”

The integration of the FFS and specifically the instructor operator station (IOS), with objective scoring and event detection systems, can be a very effective way of assessing student progress and the effectiveness of a specific training program, the community subject matter expert added.

On the topic of IOSs in the LMS architecture, TRU’s Takats reaffirmed the IOS’ role and noted some of the latest capabilities are valuable tools. “However we need to be careful as to how we use these capabilities,” he cautioned. “To largely rely on an IOS’ tools to determine and assess a student’s performance needs to be fully vetted and evaluated. Assessing a pilot’s competence, knowledge, attitude and skills in any flight simulation training device (FSTD) is a combination of many things, the primary focus of which is the instructor and how well he or she is able to use the FSTD environment, tools and utilities to support LMS and/or competency assessment. Having said that, the IOS remains a valuable tool to prepare scenarios, record certain performance specifics and to quickly and easily monitor – and I stress the word monitor – progress.”

Indeed, the newest IOS interfaces developed by TRU Simulation + Training, in conjunction with one of its customers, includes valuable performance analysis tools that can be used by a trained instructor to help assess student performance against the practical test standards. “More importantly, it allows solo practice by a student for most PTS [practical test standards] maneuvers, and graphs the performance against an actual test pilot recording, as well as the PTS grading criteria for the specific maneuver. This encourages and draws in the student to practice to perfection. This new technology has already proven extremely valuable in our customers training programs,” Takats concluded.

Back at CAE, the company has developed a Simulator Operations Quality Assurance (SOQA) capability which leverages the CAE Insight™ Flight Data Monitoring and Analysis System commonly used for airline FOQA programs. Cacciola continued, “The CAE Insight SOQA system is fully integrated with the instructor operating system and is capable of capturing a wide data set of flight mission parameter - very much like an aircraft flight data recorder. The SOQA event detection engine allows for the assessment of specific scenario-based training tasks against defined criteria and provides the instructor with an objective assessment of student performance.”

The SOQA system is a significant capability offered in CAE’s new “instructor office” concept on the CAE 7000XR Series FFS.

One air carrier perspective on training device-FFS integration was provided by Scott Nutter, the General Manager of Research, AQP & Development at Delta Air Lines’ Flight Operations, and also a speaker at WATS 2014. The community veteran noted Delta’s Information Technology team has developed internal systems to schedule FFS and flight training devices, as well as instructors and students, and does not have a requirement to integrate full flight simulators or flight training devices into a corporate LMS.