More than one in nine bridges in the United States is structurally deficient, meaning that they require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement. We sometimes forget how important it is to ensure the safety of our bridges, especially when you consider that everyday, Americans take 260 million trips over structurally deficient bridges, according to a report from the Transportation for America Campaign.
The National Highway Institute (NHI) – an organization within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) – works to improve the performance of the transportation industry through training. To help ensure that the workforce responsible for the construction and maintenance of our roadways are properly trained, NHI has developed a three-dimensional, virtual bridge inspection computer-based training tool that has become a critical part of its renowned two-week bridge inspection training course.
The training program office at the NHI was recognized by the FGDLA for its innovative work to bring quality training to students nation-wide. Richard Barnaby, director of training at the NHI, was there to accept the Innovation Award, along with the Engility team led by Anthony “Tony” Prause.
The Polycom team sat down with Mr. Barnaby and Mr. Prause for an exclusive interview about the DOT’s distance learning initiative, and how video teleconferencing (VTC) has helped the department get ahead in the space.
Here is what they had to say:
Public Sector View: Congratulations on being honored with an Innovation Award. Can you give us a brief background as to what the DOT is trying to accomplish with distance learning technology?
Richard Barnaby: We’re trying to use new technologies to deliver [training] to the transportation workforce nationwide. We want to be efficient, effective, and we’re trying to make it immersive so the participants can benefit from it. Their skill sets can be enhanced thanks to the technology, which is what we’re looking to do.
We took a very technologically complex training course, which is safety inspection of in-service bridges, and through Engility – through Tony’s team – turned it into a training program with gaming quality simulations that involve more participation than a traditional video game.
We were able to make the training better, easier, and more fun for the students to ensure that they learn what they need to know.
Public Sector View: What has been the return on investment of the program for the DOT? How has it helped the department accomplish its mission?
Richard Barnaby: The ROI for an undertaking of this nature this can be measured by our total reach. Since going into distance learning, we’ve managed to double the number of people taking our training. We went from 15,000 to 33,000 individuals, and the number is even higher this year. Through the use of mobile learning, we’ve been able to expand our reach and it’s enhanced the quality of the training.
Road building and bridge building are nation wide, and the training that we provide needs to reach our entire audience. Our audience consists of states, various departments of transportation, and the private sector as well as the local sector, so our training has to be national to do its job.
Our mission is to provide highly technical training at a very high level, and distance learning is the way to go.
Public Sector View: What issues and trends are you seeing today in the distance learning space?
Anthony Prause: The biggest trend that I see is that organizations are looking for rapid development of distance learning products at a low cost, but also increasing requirements and higher training standards with respect to quality and capability. The needs of customers are adapting to economic issues and the advancement of technology to provide better training products to augment all types of training.
There used to be a saying “Good, fast, cheap, pick two.” That’s no longer an option – being “better faster cheaper” is now becoming the minimum requirement.
for more information on Video Conferencing and Distance Learning applications and technologies, contact SpaceCoast AV Communications at 321-257-9700 or via email at email@example.com