Virtual reality bridges gap between theory and praxis

Online since 16-06-2020
Plans for the Erasmus+ project Tim Europe are getting shaped more and more. There is a lot going on behind the scenes even though a decision on the approval of the project is not expected until July.
Various partners have been contacted to include their expertise in Tim Europe. This includes Electude, a Dutch company that specialises in automotive e-learning and currently active in nearly 60 countries. Electude will become an important partner for Tim Europe because their expertise perfectly matches the plans of the Erasmus+ project in which five countries plan to work together to improve education in agricultural mechanisation. 

Learning materials that are already in use at Tim Netherlands will be translated in four other countries and will be digitised as far as possible. Electude has indicated that it wants to take on this task. They develop e-learning packages for training courses for automotive and commercial vehicles like trucks. Achieving the same for agricultural machinery and vehicles is only a small step aside. They are willing to invest in this project and will transform practical teaching modules from mobile equipment into a virtual environment. Various Tim partners are very keen on this idea. 

Virtual reality glasses
Tim Europe's wish is to create a virtual, game-like environment, that helps students with the practical part of the mobile equipment training. That is exactly what Electude offers: digital teaching programs that are performed with virtual reality glasses. Completely in 3D and with almost unlimited possibilities in terms of failures and diagnostics. Koen Berends from Electude: “It feels like if you’re in a workshop where all kinds of tools, machines and vehicles are installed. The glasses register your movements and actions. The three-dimensional effect makes it a very realistic experience.” 

Special view of vehicle
There are many advantages to this way of e-learning, says chairman Peter Nientker: “Apart from the 'fun' way of learning, it is more beneficial to train students thanks to e-learning. It is safer, nothing can break and it offers extra 'insights'. For example, components or parts of a vehicle can be easily removed. These manipulations are not possible in a real-life workshop. For example, remove a cabin to look underneath it. Virtually anything is possible without it’s entailing risks.” 

Everything can be made virtual
All conceivable and unlikely malfunctions can be simulated in a program. Tools and measuring equipment, such as a multimeter, really work. “It is not a picture of a multimeter, no, it IS a multimeter. You operate it yourself and it shows the values ​​exactly as in a real situation”, Koen explains. The idea of Tim Europe and Electude is to put together the digital modules with the help of trainers. They need to indicate the types of vehicles, the failure descriptions, malfunctions, error messages and diagnostics in order to be able to process them in a program. Koen: “This creates an optimal simulation and it gives students unlimited possibilities. In fact, everything is feasible within this concept.” 

Are there also benefits to teachers?
“Certainly”, adds Peter: “Students can practice and make mistakes indefinitely. The program keeps track of all actions and incorrect assumptions. A student receives a work assignment from a teacher and has to virtually complete it. Afterwards, the teacher can see every action and mind step of the student - even remotely! - and discuss and evaluate it with him.” 

According to Koen, the virtual practical lessons really add something to a training. “You can prepare students virtually for practice. Get acquainted first and later on they continue in the practice room. It is possible for teachers to use steps and thresholds. For example: if you master this action and that diagnostics in the program, you can try it in practice. It causes fewer errors in practice, which saves time and money. E-learning bridges the gap between theory and practice.” 

E-learning in five languages
Thanks to a grant from Europe (if the Erasmus+ project will be approved), E-learning for Tim Europe is within reach. Developing it is an expensive process. Because it will be made for several European countries, it has become achievable yet the entire process is expected to take up to four years. From then on, the digital teaching material will be available in all languages and ready for use.