Showing My Work #1

15 Aug

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

Recently at my workplace, I’ve been involved in a project to train a group of employees to become relief operators for some items of plant (which are machines like tractors, graders, excavators and trucks). I was working on this project with the HR Co-ordinator and the L&D Officer for the outdoor staff in our organisation. My role as the instructional designer was to develop some materials to help the new operators learn how to drive and use the various machines (there were 9 different types in all).

Armed with a Sony Handycam, we met with each operator who was also our subject matter expert (SME). The reason for filming was that we thought it would be easier to capture what the SME was saying and showing, rather than having to make lots of notes and take photos. The SME took us through the pre-start checks, what the cabin controls are used for and how to perform some of the operating tasks – things that a new person would need to know about. I filmed the SME as they talked about their machine and explained how it worked. After this, I went through the footage and took snapshots to create images (using VLC media player). I then annotated the images using the SME’s descriptions and explanations. It all came together in a ‘New Operator Guide’ for each piece of plant.

The footage turned out pretty well especially given it was unscripted (although, no Oscar this year!). As a result, we also decided to burn the footage to disc and give this to the new operator to go with the guide.

All of the guides followed a similar format – Entering and Exiting, Pre-start Checks, Cabin Controls and Operation. The aim was to keep it as simple as possible and easy to follow. Safety was also important, given that the items of plant can be quite dangerous if used incorrectly.

As always, the guides were given back to the SME’s for review and comment. This was then incorporated into the guide. The operators were very passionate about their item of plant, so it was great to talk to them and work with them. The materials will essentially be a support for the new operators to supplement the practice sessions they will receive until they are competent (which will take some time).

Here are a few samples taken from different guides:

In this example, we can see how to enter and exit the vehicle safely. The ‘Key Safety Tip’ boxes were a suggestion from the Safety Officer who I also sent the guides to for feedback from a safety perspective. Them tips are used throughout all of the guides and generally, the information came from the Work Method Statements (WMS) for the particular item of plant.

Entering and Exiting

The pre-start checks are completed each day before operating the piece of plant. I wanted to step the learners through the process. This example comes from the grader and shows how to check the engine area. Where possible, I’ve tried to orientate the learner to where a small part sits within a larger area. I’ve done this by magnifying the views of some parts. This was the learner can see where the item sits within the overall picture and then gets some enhanced detail of the part – in this case the isolation switch and a light switch.


This example shows the cabin controls from one of the trucks. These varied in complexity from machine to machine. For ones that had many controls, I again used the method that showed the whole thing and then enlarged relevant sections which were labelled.

Cabin Controls

The final part was to show how to operate parts of the machine. This example shows some of the steps to fill a pothole.


The real test will be when the new operators receive the materials once the program starts. I intend to talk with them to gather feedback from their perspective as a learner that I can then incorporate into the materials for future groups.

So, what do you think?


Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Show Your Work


Tags: , , , ,

6 responses to “Showing My Work #1

  1. tanyalau

    August 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Matt,
    nice ‘show your work’ example!
    I’d be interested to know a bit more about the context in which these guides are used. I’m guessing there would be a fair bit of on the job training for employees to operate the machines, and these guides are used as materials to support this training?
    Were these paper based guides that you created?
    My first thought was, if you had a video camera, why not just create video demos of the steps? (possibly easier than extracting stills from video footage to create paper guides…?) I’m thinking if the guides are designed to support employees on the job post-training, mobile video based performance support might be helpful.
    BUT I’m guessing there were constraints either related to delivery (e.g. learners don’t have appropriate mobile tools to access the video on site) or production (no video editing tools, tight timeframes…) preventing you from doing this.

    Interested to find out more about the rationale behind the design – as we do a lot of operational training like this in our org too so great to share and leverage ideas.

    • learningsnippets

      August 18, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Hi Tanya
      In my org (and I’m guessing similar to yours) there are two groups of employees – an indoor/office based group and an outdoor/field based group. Due to the nature of the work of the two groups there are differences in the availability and access to technology. As an example, some of the outdoor staff use don’t use computers at all and even still complete paper-based timesheets each week.

      So you are spot on with the constraints, they don’t have the mobile tools available to them and we don’t have the production tools (at this stage anyway). Most of the training will be practical based with an experienced operator to coach them. The guides and videos will be a support tool that they can use in between sessions, at least until they are familiar with the piece of plant. I liken the experience to learning to drive a car, you can read a book and watch a video about it but to really learn how to drive, you need to get the feel of it by actually driving and doing several things at once.

      These new relief operators are already working on other roles within our org so they’ll be scheduled practice but this needs to fit in with the operational needs of their current jobs. It’s something that we intend to monitor during the training so that each operator gets a fair go and enough time to learn.
      We’ve also developed log books for them to record details of their practical training and milestones or stages that they will have signed off by the experienced operators who are training the new operators.

      An important point about this whole process is that there has been great support from the Managers/Supervisors in co-ordinating and organising staff during the learning phase. They are prepared to give the new relief operators time to learn and will backfill with other staff while the operators are engaged in practice sessions.

      • tanyalau

        August 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm

        Hey Matt, thanks for the info – really interesting to hear about the context. And yes – this is very similar to the environment that a lot of our operational staff (bus / train / vehicle drivers, rail workers…and a bunch of other field based employees) work in. Access to mobile tech – and even the corporate network is an issue – and this is pretty much across the board (I still do paper timesheets!! Yep – stuck in the dark ages here…).
        However, that said, there are pockets of the org which are starting to get mobile access (e.g. rail customer service staff now have some iphones & ipads…) which is why mobile is something we’re starting to consider. It’s a medium that certainly has a lot of potential to facilitate access to resources and contextual performance support, but needs to be designed appropriately. One type of mobile PS which we have discussed internally is the use of QR codes (e.g. on operator panels on machines, buses, trains etc) to access similar types of content you’ve got in your guides – to facilitate familiarity with relevant controls.

        Definitely agree though that whilst you can provide support for the knowledge component of this type of learning, you can only become skilled and proficient at these tasks by actually DOING them. This is the same with a lot of soft skills as well (e.g. sales, coaching / feedback conversations, leadership etc…) which also involves doing several things at once – just on a cognitive rather than physical level.

        Your point about manager and supervisor support is a good one – and something that I think (especially as L&D professionals) we often underestimate the importance of. This is absolutely critical for helping employees to actually embed learning, for real world practice and feedback, and performance improvement. I think there are definitely opportunities for us (L&D) to facilitate this by developing stronger ties with managers and supervisors in the business units that we’re developing learning interventions for – as without their ongoing support the learning programs we develop have little hope of impacting actual performance.

  2. Ryan Tracey

    August 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Nice work!

    It’s a shame the field staff don’t have access to tablets. Those annotated images would be perfect for ThingLink.

    • learningsnippets

      August 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks Ryan

      Yes that’s true. There is a possibility that tablets will be introduced in the future which I believe will be hugely beneficial for on the job just-in-time learning.


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