Process Safety ‘Distant Augmented Reality Training’ (DART)? Bullseye!

Cast your mind back to your last training session. Having persuaded your boss to approve, what seemed to her, elevated fees, you took the train after work and checked into a budget limited (poky) downtown hotel. Deciding to forgo breakfast (based on your previous experience of weak coffee, burnt toast and surly waitress), you headed with some trepidation to the session registration. Would you know anyone? What should I say in the inevitable ‘tell us something about yourself’ icebreaker? Would there be team exercises (they were fun last time)?

You walk up to the threshold and into the atrium. You immediately spotted Jim, Tony and Liz from the office. Your shoulders drop and you smile as they saw you and invite you to join them for a coffee. That’s you in the picture above with your back to the camera, holding your registration document. You all drifted into the training space and took seats together. The trainer welcomed you to the course and invited everyone to introduce themselves, including describing something they like to do in their spare time.

When it’s your turn, you talked about being part of a korfball team as one of your hobbies. When you finished, the instructor said she’d heard of it as it’s like basketball (which she plays) but must have an even number of male and females participants.

The course started. It was a bit PowerPoint heavy and covered a lot of familiar ground, but the interactive multiple-choice questions were effective. Just before the morning break, the trainer split us all into 3 teams – you were part of Team Blue which included Tony and 2 delegates you didn’t know. We carried out a role play simulation, which really helped reinforce the information from the slides.

At lunch you sat with my office colleagues. During the afternoon break, you were approached by Niall who introduced himself by saying that he used to play korfball when he lived for a while in Holland, where it originated. We had a nice chat.

On the train home, you reflected on the experience. You didn’t particularly enjoy being away from home and as for the hotel…..! However, it was great to be able to meet people you knew before the start, a relief that your hobby was well received and it was stimulating to engage with new people in a friendly way.

Fast forward to your next training session. It’s the autumn of 2020 and COVID19 has disrupted the business landscape. Your boss however iss pleasantly surprised when you present your application – less than half the previous cost – while you are comforted by the thought of being able to participate from your home office (minus train journeys and hotel stays). On the morning of the course, you log in (again a bit nervously because, although you are by now familiar with Zoom calls, this will be your first Zoom Training Session). You quickly find yourself in a virtual company specific coffee cluster where Tony and Liz are already chatting. After some time, the trainer joins to introduce himself.

The other participants then appear on the screen (some with video on; others off) and everyone is welcomed by the trainer. He introduces himself, requests that everyone turn their videos on temporarily (if possible). You are a bit unsettled when he said that everyone should feel free to ‘thumbs up’ if they felt enthused by something from the introduction round and that the recipient should literally pat themselves on the back. You feel more than a bit self-conscious this time when talking about korfball, but get 3 ‘thumbs’ and then pat yourself on the back – which was a bit weird but strangely OK.

The session comprised a mix of classic powerpoint, multiple choice questions and responses, team exercise (in breakout rooms) and role play (with associates of the trainer acting as confederates). The trainer seemed adept at drawing us all into the session by frequently posing questions to individuals, especially those (like you!) who had not yet contributed. Having the chat box amenity was helpful as it enabled you to pose questions without disrupting the flow. The connectivity worked well – only one person dropped out and the trainer kindly gave a quick synopsis when they were able to re-join half an hour later.

The first break and lunch were in our company breakout room, but for the afternoon break we we’re also give the choice of joining a team breakout room. You stick to the company one as you felt you’d already done enough new things for one day. When you log off at the end, you are pretty tired but content. You had been concerned that the session would be sterile and impersonal, but the trainer and set up seemed to create a kind of augmented (post-COVID) reality, recognising the virtual deficit and bridging many of the gaps. So, overcoming your discomfort, you again pat youself on the back on having benefited from your first Process Safety Matters Distant Augmented Reality Training (DART) session.

Bullseye indeed!