Alcoa: Utilising Immersive Learning and VR to Improve Worker Safety Training

 

Alcoa worked with Viewport XR to design and develop a VR immersive learning simulation that provided a safe and controlled method of training employees in the high-risk processes of operating electrical switchgears within a virtual replica of one of their refinery substations.

We sat down with Alcoa E&I Training and Development lead Matthew Line to discuss the VR training simulator and its positive implications for the resources industry.

How has utilising immersive learning and VR technology impacted Alcoa’s safety training processes and general operations?

The implementation of immersive learning and virtual reality (VR) technology has substantially improved Alcoa’s safety training procedures. VR modules, which simulate high-risk situations such as arc flash incidents in a secure environment, enable employees to familiarize themselves with safety protocols without exposure to real-world hazards. The immersive quality of VR has resulted in elevated knowledge retention rates, with Alcoa reporting a 75% retention rate, a significant increase from the 20% achieved with conventional methods. This improvement has not only enhanced safety outcomes, but also augmented operational efficiency by minimizing the probability of accidents and bolstering employee readiness.

What has the response from Alcoa personnel and others been towards the VR training experience?

Matt: The VR training has been very well received by our personnel. It’s a far cry from our conventional methods of in-class PowerPoint presentations and trapsing through the refinery looking for equipment that is free to practice with.

In addition to several updates and improvements to the VR app, we’ve recently added Canadian French and Brazilian Portuguese language options for speakers of these languages. How have these updates been received?

Matt: The introduction of Canadian French and Brazilian Portuguese language options in the VR application has been favourably received. These enhancements have broadened the accessibility of the training to a wider employee base, ensuring that language barriers do not obstruct learning. User feedback so far indicates a high level of appreciation for the inclusivity and the efforts to accommodate diverse linguistic requirements, which has enriched their overall training experience and engagement.

With XR, spatial computing, AI and other technologies accelerating at a rapid rate, how do you envision that the resources industry will leverage these tools for training?

Matt: The resources industry is well-positioned to exploit extended reality (XR), spatial computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and other emergent technologies to transform training. With a younger and diverse group of workers beginning to filter into the industry, these tools will facilitate a more personalised and adaptive learning experience, with AI providing instantaneous feedback and modifications based on user performance. XR technologies will enable remote collaboration, allowing geographically dispersed teams to train together in immersive environments. The incorporation of gamification elements will further amplify engagement and knowledge retention. Moreover, hybrid training environments that integrate virtual and physical elements will offer hands-on experiential learning, effectively bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

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