E-learning and security Do you really need the practice?

With the increase of possibilities to develop training courses via the internet, and for professionals to follow them, you see that the offer in the field of e-learning is growing. The range is broad and training courses such as VCA or safety trainings are already given online. But where do we draw the line? 


Objections of e-learning
‘You can do a lot with e-learning', says Ton Beems, Functional Safety expert and team leader of the Safety Assurance department at Yokogawa Nederland. Employees follow training courses at their own pace, at their own location and often in their own time. The assessment after the training is online as well'. And that's where the objections arise. Beems: 'For example, that the assessment is always the same. This contrasts with the assessment that participants receive when they follow a classroom training course. In addition, you must be 'proven competent' in our world. And can you demonstrate this with an online exam? You have no control over it. Has the person taken the exam in person or with the help of a colleague? Has he followed the training carefully or has he been answering e-mails in the meantime? 

Clearly, Beems prefers practical training. It is the interaction during a training that is important. Between the trainer and the participants, and between the participants themselves. You can see it, if someone does not understand something. There are also questions and remarks from practice. On this basis you can move forward together and raise the bar even higher,' says Beems. 

Less obvious advantage of e-learning
Nevertheless, Yokogawa is evolving: recently, an e-learning programme has been set up for Sales and (Project) Management staff. This consists of a module with a basic Functional Safety training supplemented with 2 specific modules. We give employees the choice between e-learning or a classroom training. Of course, we prefer the second option, a training together with 'peers' in a room. Only then do you get the feedback and discussions that take people further. And by making a random assessment you also know for sure that everyone understands the subject matter. This is how we make the difference. E-learning does give a less obvious advantage: people no longer have any reason to let their certificate expire, because the training is always available. And that's convenient with the strict IEC standards that require repetition, so the training has to be done every 3 years".

Regular testing of skills of technicians and operators    
Yokogawa is developing more training courses and Beems is proud to be able to give the Functional Safety for Engineering and Functional Safety for Operations training courses for TÜV Rheinland worldwide. He finds that particularly important. "By definition, accidents happen in the operational phase. Why is there so much emphasis on the competence of the engineers, whom in principle work if the system is not (yet) operational? After that, it doesn't stop, so it is necessary to regularly test whether the competencies of technicians and operators whom are working with the operational, hazardous process system on a daily basis are still accurate. The standard requires competence throughout the entire lifecycle, from the cradle to the grave. This is exactly why we developed the Functional Safety for Operations training, which covers the phases from installation on site to decommissioning. And based on feedback from the field, we have developed it into something that fits in perfectly with today's operational reality". 

This interview is part of a Dutch article on Petrochem.nl