Important Issues in Maritime Training and Education at the IMLA 20 MET Conference

Jul 02, 2012, 10:05AM EST
Important Issues in Maritime Training and Education at the IMLA 20 MET Conference
Maritime education needs to be focused upon. It needs to be considered, discussed, studied, analysed, and continuously improved upon. It is for this reason that when I saw the call for papers for IMLA 20 - the 20th “IMLA International Conference on Maritime Education and Training”, I knew I needed to be there. This article highlights some of the important issues surrounding Maritime Training and Education which are being raised at this conference.


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Maritime education needs to be focused upon. It needs to be considered, discussed, studied, analysed, and continuously improved upon. The status quo should never be acceptable in an endeavour such as this, and we need to be willing to experiment and, yes - even fail now and then - in order to make progress to improve the state of the art.

 

It is for this reason that when I saw the call for papers for IMLA 20 - the 20th “IMLA International Conference on Maritime Education and Training” (http://www.imla20.com/), happening this week on the beautiful island of Terschelling in the Netherlands, I knew I needed to be there. This article highlights some of the important issues surrounding Maritime Training and Education which are being raised at this conference.

 

Next week I plan to provide an update on the international maritime mentoring initiative. If you would like to receive notifications of upcoming articles (and have not already done so), please sign up here.

About the Conference

The IMLA (International Maritime Lecturers Association) conference series began 32 years ago in Amsterdam and has occurred roughly every two years since in locations all over the world. This year it returns to the Netherlands. The hosting institution this year is the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz (MIWB) - a maritime training institution founded over 135 years ago in 1875. The chair of the conference, Capt. Stephen Cross of the MIWB whose maritime credentials are exceeded only by his wit and good humor, is an outstanding host.

 

This year’s conference theme is “Back to Basics”. It recognizes the tremendous changes that have occurred in the maritime industry in terms of technology, operations and maritime training and education. While recognizing these changes, the conference this year is focusing on the essentials of safety and the economy in the maritime industry. Thus the theme - “Back to Basics”.

 

There are roughly 50 papers and presentations at this year’s conference covering a wide range of topics, contributed by people from all corners of the world. My paper and presentation, which might seem superficially at odds with the conference theme, is on blended learning and assessment in the maritime industry. Other presentations cover all sorts of themes related to education including simulation, environmental awareness training, getting young people interested in maritime training, assessments, examining the difference between compliance and good practice, and many many more topics. And although my travel arrangements did not let me attend the full conference, I was able to participate in a number of presentations and I will provide some of the highlights from talks I was able to attend (as well as from some I was not able to attend), below.

A Sampling of MET Issues Presented at IMLA 20

Below, please find a semi-random sampling of the papers and presentations from this year’s conference.

Aspects of Simulation in MET

There were several presentations and papers on simulation at the conference. One presentation, given by conference chair Stephen Cross, was a very interesting discussion of the use of simulation in maritime education and training. It began by looking at casualties in the maritime industry saying that roughly 80% are attributable to human error, and how about 65% of those can be related back to lack of proper training. It then went on to look at the performance improvement that can be obtained through the use of simulation. It found that a performance improvement of roughly 60% was achievable for inexperienced trainees and between 20% and 40% for experienced trainees - for an overall improvement of about 45% through the use of simulation. Taking these numbers together, it can be shown that properly applied simulator training can lead to a 14% accident reduction.

 

The presentation then discussed the idea of awarding some amount of sea time for simulator experience. This is already the case in the Netherlands. The argument for doing so (aside from simply improving performance)  is that doing so provides an incentive to do simulator training, and also lends credibility to the use of simulators. As one example in the Netherlands (if I have understood correctly), simulator time can be used to replace up to 60 days of seatime - reducing the seatime requirement from 360 days to 300. The ratio applied here is 1 to 4 - where 15 days of simulator time counts for 60 days of seatime. But even though this is allowed in some countries, the STCW does not recognize the use of simulation time as a replacement for some portion of seatime.

 

Finally, the presentation talked quite a bit about the use of simulators for assessment of competence and how the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz is reducing the use of written exams (which are still useful for assessing the knowledge underlying the competencies) in favor of simulator-based assessment of competencies.

 

Overall, the conclusion is that simulation time is a valuable tool both for maritime training and assessment, and that it is reasonable to expand its use and recognition in maritime training.

Requiring Training for Maritime Instructors

This presentation, by Quentin Cox of Warsash University, looked at the issue of training for instructors in the maritime industry. It talks about how the STCW requirements placed on our trainers are relatively vague, and questions who it is that makes the best educators. Is it academics? Or is it maritime practitioners? Quentin (wisely) does not try to answer this question, but notes that the STCW does not require any particular experience of maritime trainers. As such, the theme raised by Quentin throughout his talk is the difference between simple compliance and good practice - and whether the industry is focused on moving beyond compliance and achieving good practise.

E-Learning in the Maritime Industry

There are a number of presentations at the conference (including my own) on e-learning in the maritime industry. My own presentation looked at blended learning (using a combination of e-learning and face-to-face learning in order to take advantage of the benefits of each) in the maritime industry. It then went on to look at the British Columbia Ferries System and their award-winning blended learning implementation.


Another paper, “Gaming Meets Training” by Steven Gosling from the Nautical Institute in the U.K., looks at the (disappearing) line between simulation and gaming, and how the maritime world can benefit from the advances in the gaming industry to create immersive, interactive simulation environments. It discusses the “Teamsafety” project, an EU funded research project to use 3D gaming in seafarer safety training.

 

Another paper, “IT and Modern Technology in Maritime Education and Training” from Mengya Qi of the Merchant Marine College in China, looks at the effect of new technologies being employed in maritime training and education. It also looks at the potential for interdisciplinary efforts to apply advances in other fields to existing problems in the maritime industry.

 

A fourth paper, “Combination of Lifelong Learning and Distance Learning for Seafarers” by Zhang Zhongqiu of Jilin University in China, looks at using distance education as a lifelong learning tool in the maritime industry.

Automated Training Tools for Radio Engineer Training

This paper discussed some interesting work on automated tools for the training (ATT) of radio engineers. It was given by Igor Vetrov and Oleg Ponomarev of the Baltic Fishing Fleet State Academy in Russia. The paper discusses the need for advanced training due to the continuous upgrading of modern ship communication and radio equipment. It presented a discussion of automated radio training techniques including training software, digital textbooks, and software simulation. It concludes that the widespread use of ATT significantly improves the training quality of maritime radio engineers in the face of rapid modernization of maritime engineering education.

Methods and Means of Teaching Marine English

There were a number of papers on English training for mariners. This paper, by Svetlana Rodinadze of the Batumi State Maritime Academy in Georgia, looks at the various means and methods for teaching english. It talks about not only the STCW requirement to have a well developed command of the English language, but also the practical need to improve English fluency and extend the range of the unique professional maritime vocabulary. The paper discusses the various techniques and speaks to the place of information technology in teaching English. One technique discussed includes the “direct method” where second language learning is based on an imitation of first language learning. Another is the “grammar translation method” which instructs students in grammar and uses the technique of memorized translations. And the “audio-lingual” method has students listen to recordings of spoken English. The paper concludes that while there are many methods which can be used to teach English, the effectiveness often depends on the experience, enthusiasm and knowledge of the lecturers.

Assessing Competency

This is an interesting paper by Gholam Reza Emad of the Chabahar Maritime university in Iran. In this presentation, Gholam observes that the 1995 STCW convention adopted a competency based training approach, yet little has changed in maritime training since then to more deeply address competency. The presentation focuses on the need to move to authentic methods of assessing competency, rather than the commonly existing practice of relying heavily on written and oral examinations (along with some simulator-based assessments). The author calls for job-based performance assessments, but observes that the 2010 amendments to the STCW do little to address this issue. FInally, the author notes that not only has inadequate assessment of competency had a negative impact on our ability to adequately judge a candidate’s performance, but that it has also negatively shaped the teaching practices of maritime training institutes.

Conclusion

In all, despite having to leave the conference early due to travel requirements, I found this to be an excellent conference which stimulated much thought on a wide breadth of maritime training issues. Also, I found the organizers and attendees to be wonderfully inviting, engaging, and interactive. From my understanding, next year’s conference is going to take place on the East coast of Canada. I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about training and education in the maritime industry.

 

As I mentioned above, next week I plan to provide an update on the international maritime mentoring initiative. If you would like to receive notifications of upcoming articles (and have not already done so), please sign up here.

 

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About The Author:

Murray Goldberg is the founder and President of Marine Learning Systems (www.marinels.com), the creator of MarineLMS - the learning management system designed specifically for maritime industry training. Murray began research in eLearning in 1995 as a faculty member of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. He went on to create WebCT, the world’s first commercially successful LMS for higher education; serving 14 million students in 80 countries. Now, in Marine Learning Systems, Murray is hoping to play a part in advancing the art and science of learning in the maritime industry.

 

Blog Notifications: For notifications of new maritime training articles, please Follow this blog.

Maritime Mentoring: International Maritime Mentoring Community - Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

 

 
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Comments
Quentin Cox
Murray, thank you for your own participation and excellent presentation at the IMLA 20 conference and your kind words. As a committee member we, collectively, appreciate your comments. Your leadership in MET is an example to us all and we look forward to seeing you in Newfoundland next October. Alma also sends her best wishes. Thank you again.
7/6/2012 3:33:46 PM
 
Murray Goldberg
Quentin - thanks so much for the very generous note. I am so pleased that you have provided a venue where MET research and experience can be discussed and presented. I look forward to the 2013 conference.

My best regards to the entire membership.

Best regards - Murray
7/8/2012 2:49:03 PM