Instructor's role crucial in simulator-based training

It is not obvius how the skills of future seafarers evolve in built up environments for educational purposes and how the simulated reality in the education relates to the work on board a ship. A new dissertation by Charlott Sellberg from the University of Gothenburg emphasizes how the crucial instructor's function is.

Maritime education has undergone profound changes in recent decades. From having introduced a system of apprenticeships, where you work in the hierarchy on board, today there is an academic education where parts of the ship-specific practice are replaced with training in built-in, simulator-based environments in an educational environment.

Earlier research warns about how simulators and other technologies are introduced in, for example, today's naval education. Criticism has pointed out that the approach hardly supports the development of the professional skills that are emphasized as important in the governing documents governing education.

Cooperation with the Swedish Maritime Administration
Since 2013, Charlott Sellberg has studied simulator exercises at Chalmers University of Technology in a navigational course for seafarers. The simulator center at Chalmers campus at Lindholmen in Gothenburg is built in cooperation with the Swedish Maritime Administration and holds a variety of simulators for radio communication, engine room, cargo handling, navigation and work on the ship bridge.

In the current study, the students train in five different navigation simulators that will resemble the bridge on a modern ship, where the simulator projects the image of a nautical environment through the bridge's windows, including radar, electronic charts and control instruments. From the instructor room, the instructor simultaneously monitors the course of events through different monitors.

Connects to the professional practice
Charlott Sellberg's conclusions are more positive than in the previous studies.

"One of the reasons my results look different is that each simulator environment has been developed by experienced instructors. Likewise, the lesson in the simulator has been designed by instructors with long-term experience of both the naval culture and the teaching of the seascape program."

"That the instructors both have a professional competence and that they have many years of experience in teaching, contribute to the high quality education of the simulator center. That the instructor systematically connects what happens during the simulation to vocational training helps students to relate what they learn to the upcoming work," says Charlott Sellberg.

What is at the heart of the training is the professional conversation about what is considered to be good seamen, as well as what it means to comply with the traffic rules applicable at sea.

Guided into the profession
But what constitutes good seamen or the correct application of traffic rules is highly situational. The dissertation shows how the students are guided into the profession through the instructor's demonstrations of good seascape and rule-making during the campus exercises. The demonstrations consist, for example, of demonstrating and explaining specific situations on the radar screen and how the situations are to be handled.

"In this way, the training in the simulators is firmly rooted in the vocational training that the students are practicing," says Charlott Sellberg.

The dissertation is part of the research project "Training and assessment of professional action in simulator environment", which in turn is carried out in collaboration between the Department of Education, Communication and Learning, and the Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences at Chalmers.

Text: Torsten Arpi, Göteborgs Universitet