Daniel Serfaty, CEO & Founder of Aptima, Inc., delivered the keynote at WATS 2023, the world’s largest gathering of aviation training professionals. An aeronautical engineer by training, Serfaty founded Aptima in 1995 as a human-centered engineering company, with expertise in training, human-machine teaming, AI and machine learning, and R&D in defense, aerospace, and healthcare.


Precision Training: An Idea Whose Time Has Come 

For an industry facing a shortage of qualified workers and candidates bringing more diverse backgrounds and skill sets to the field, Serfaty addressed the WATS audience suggesting it was time for a paradigm shift to improve training. 

Serfaty proposed that the key to improving training doesn’t lie in new types of virtual or augmented reality, but in answering the question, “How do we account for the fact that everyone learns differently?”  

Serfaty's solution to this question is “precision training,” a more personalized approach that tailors learning to each individual’s needs. 

“All of us have had a teacher in school, college, in our professional training that impacted us because they took into account who we are, what we know, and how we learn.”

Precision training is a more surgical, data driven approach that shifts the focus from counting hours or days spent in a classroom or simulator, to building proficiencies to accelerate the acquisition of skills and readiness. 

Serfaty pointed to the significant progress made over the past several years in demonstrating precision training is particularly effective in scenario-based curricula where it adapts the learning path to the trainee.

Precision training not only adjusts to the individual as they train, but also takes into account their education, background, and competencies, and that data is the key to this approach. 

“You carry your history with you. If you take those data into account, you can produce this optimal experience of individualized learning to become proficient sooner. That allows more time to be on the job, for deliberate practice, or to gain additional mastery.”

In other words, precision training isn’t about inventing something new but taking the existing curricula and tools and applying them in a way to move the industry forward.


The Ingredients -- Data, AI, and Science

Serfaty pointed out several components that now make precision training possible.

The first is data. By collecting human performance data, competencies can be measured and compared to learning objectives in a quantitative manner.

Next is where AI and machine learning come into play, fusing and assessing the data to recommend the learning path to pursue, This, he explained, identifies the next “piece of skill or knowledge” the trainee needs to be imparted with, whether that’s the next vignette to present in the scenario or the next chapter. 

Third, is applying proven principles from learning science. He explained the “zone of proximal development,” as an example, saying that optimal learning occurs at the ‘Goldilocks’ spot where it's not too easy but not too hard.

“This is where maximum learning happens, and AI is pretty good at identifying those spots that are unique to you, whether you’re an expert pilot or a novice. The system knows what you can skip, what to rehearse more, and the type of scenario to best stimulates learning.”

That helps learners get the “nuggets” that will move them forward to maximize training time, he added.  Data-driven training is also predictive in that it can recommend when a refresh is needed to stave off skill decay without needing to be in a schoolhouse to access it.
The Return

Although precision training is relatively new, Serfaty said, “What we know about going to the next level of precision is that it improves performance and reduces the time of training.

“Readiness is important in all fields. Its critical in the aviation domain.”

More future-oriented training will also help the aviation industry compete for and attract talent. Employees now seeking more fulfilment from their career want the resources to learn and grow. More personalized, continuous learning will help them adapt and succeed in an industry facing constant change.

And while it takes some investment to take curricula and transform them into the system that the precision training technology can benefit from, the potential payoff is enormous.

“This is an industry that is growing and evolving at a tremendous pace. But the competition is going to go to those who can leverage what’s been developed to get the most out of it.”