Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Obstacles and Challenges

Lately my team has encountered some of the most difficult challenges thus far in our Immersion journey. I think that one of the biggest challenges lies in working with the content. As I've mentioned before, my classmates and I aren't SMEs in underground coal mining. But how engaged with the material are we supposed to become? How much of an "expert" on coal mining should I be by the end of this project? Or should I become an expert on one aspect of coal mining, like the continuous miner or guarding? There is a disconnect between how much of the content I should fully understand about this product I'm developing and what's actually being done.

My team met with several subject matter experts last year from MSHA in West Virginia. They were extremely helpful in assessing the usability of the currently existing content/training system we developed last semester and could immediately tell us what could stay and what needed work. I was shocked when I realized the large number of pages within the training modules we'd developed that had to be curtailed, severely revised, or eliminated altogether. I'd spent at least a good week or two developing a scenario based on an existing NIOSH scenario called the "Low Coal Fire." Upon the SMEs' examination, it was deemed "too simple" for the experienced coal miner and eliminated (along with several other scenarios developed by my teammates). I'd developed three Fatalgram Analyses, which gave in-depth explorations of underground coal mining fatalities. Each had about eight parts, for which I'd found images and some media. Each of these Fatalgrams (well, the ones we're still including) is now being reduced to a page or two at the end of a relevant NIOSH scenario, and the whole structure of the training system needs to be changed.

I know that when I'm on the job, SMEs are going to be more available if there is an employer paying to have his/her coursework developed as rapidly as possible. But in academia (being on the student side) it is extremely difficult to have access SMEs, let alone access practically on demand. Over winter break, I took a Captivate course, where I learned how to make a course or web-based presentation interactive. It's very hard to be told, "No, you can't use a lot of this" because the content has to be easily updatable--especially when Title 30 CFR regulations change--by non-designer mining SMEs.

As of today, we've got about three months and a timeline to get a working, interactive, engaging, online training system off the ground and into the hands of underground coal miners. Will this disconnect I spoke about earlier close?


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