Virtual training comes to the rescue in challenging times

Wärtsilä Land & Sea Academy has successfully boosted virtual training offerings to offer trainings in spite of travel restrictions and social distancing measures.

The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent global economic downturn has caused pain for many businesses. However, it has also opened up new opportunities. With many customers on lockdown and travel restrictions making face-to-face training impossible in many regions, Wärtsilä Land & Sea Academy has boosted its virtual training offerings for customers. 

Dino Postogna, Manager, Training Sales Support, Wärtsilä, explains that the expansion of virtual training is in line with pre-pandemic plans, but the changes brought about by Covid-19 led to those plans being brought forward. 

“Covid-19 has, in a way, forced us to boost something that was already in the pipeline. Internally, we had already started to develop this vehicle 2-3 years ago, and we worked quite hard to have it ready and mature to be presented to the customer market first,” Postogna says. “It was already in our vision that [virtual training] would be part of our future offering, because we need to be more and more student-centric as an organisation, and not as classroom-centric.” 

Benefits to virtual training

For Wärtsilä, virtual training is best defined as instructor-led courses with the instructor in a different location from students. In contrast with a pre-recorded online course with limited (if any) interaction between the instructor and trainees, virtual training is live. This means instructors and students trainees log on at the same time, and their interactions are much the same as they would have been in an in-person training. 

By adopting virtual training, Wärtsilä has been able to increase both the content and specificity of its offerings. The elimination of geographic barriers has made it possible to bring together content experts from disparate locations, time permitting.

From a student perspective, virtual training has the additional benefit of eliminating travel time getting to class. 

“For customers and for any of us, investing time in learning is a luxury. We don’t want to spend time to travel for calls when it can be avoided and have waiting time here and there,” Postogna says. “Adding this kind of approach will make it easier to join trainings wherever you’re located and will be more flexible.  In face-to-face course agenda planning, you’re stuck with the length of the workweek and the workday. That isn’t efficient. With the flexibility of virtual training, you can have more sessions in a shorter period of time, and also have the learning curve to guide the agenda planning.”

Companies can also save money with virtual training. ”If you consider how much you’re going to spend to attend a course, up to 30% of the cost is on travel and accommodation,” Postogna says.

Positive feedback from customers

As of mid-May 2020, Wärtsilä had delivered a handful of virtual trainings, beginning with clients in the maritime industry. Wärtsilä Qiyao Diesel Company, a joint venture of Wärtsilä in China, was the first external recipient of a virtual training. The theoretical part of the training, which covers 20DF engine and gas program module training courses, has been delivered virtually. If the situation in China improves, there will be hands-on practical training later on.

Customers participating in virtual trainings have responded positively to this new offering. In a clear indicator of initial virtual trainings’ success, Mi Hye Oh, Senior Training Coordinator, Wärtsilä Korea Land & Sea Academy, reports, “Some customers have requested other training courses and are preparing for them.”

A permanent change?

Oh says that customer sentiment will be the biggest determinant of how much virtual training will be offered after the pandemic, but she is optimistic about its prospects. 

“It's our responsibility to expand the range of choices to suit [customers’] situations. Rather than worrying about the remote training service replacing our existing face-to-face training services, we need to accept the changes into another type of service we can offer,” Oh says.

Postogna believes that training courses in the future are likely to involve both virtual and in-person elements, with formats decided based on learning objectives. “Depending on the competence and skill you need to acquire, you have to go through a certain learning objective,” he says. “To deliver the content to meet those objectives, virtual isn’t always the best option. Virtual is best for theoretical, operational, and simulation-based training; but for practical instruction, it’s not for everybody.”

Given these considerations, Postogna predicts that trainings of the future will consist of a mix of virtual reality (VR) environments that are on par with hands-on experiences, training in the workshop, and training on the job.

Written by
Lorelei Yang
Contributing Writer at Spoon Agency