Safety-critical organizations face a unique training challenge. Training must increase competency and decision-making skills but also minimize harm from trainee errors. It must avoid serious injury, loss of life or damage to expensive equipment and systems. A training disaster might also adversely affect the company’s public reputation.
In all high consequence industries, training must
- adhere to compliance standards and applicable regulations
- provide a realistic practice environment
- ensure an immersive learning experience
- equip trainees with the knowledge to handle high-risk situations
- offer ample opportunity for repetitive practice of skills and procedures in the virtual training setting
Scenario-based elearning and simulation training procedures are ideal for use in industries where human error can have devastating effects. Branched scenarios create a particularly insightful, cognitive learning experience for risk management training. Instead of following a linear path, trainees can experience the consequences of a range of decision options.
Training staff in risk management requires giving them practical steps to
- Identify risks
- Assess risks and rate probability
- Make decisions and take appropriate steps to mitigate risks
A learning scenario consists of a set-up, options, consequences and feedback. It engages interest, shows the impact of poor choices, motivates reflection, and prepares learners to make better decisions.
Scenario-based Learning in Aviation Safety Training
Airline and military aviation estimates of the number of accidents caused by pilot error range from 70-80% 
According to Robert Wright, an aerospace professional with 35 years of experience in safety analysis and consulting, “The new Airman Certification Standards (ACS) require risk management proficiency for all certificates and ratings, but the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] has yet to issue guidance to flight instructors on how to teach practical risk management.” 
Wright recommends that pilots should follow 3 steps to reduce risk:
- take a risk management or single pilot resource management (SRM) course
- learn to conduct a risk analysis for every flight and
- conduct a scenario-based flight review
The purpose of single pilot resource management (SRM), crew resource management (CRM) training and aeronautical decision making (ADM) is to reduce the number of aviation accidents caused by human error. This scenario-based training makes pilots and crews aware of their limitations and how to maximize their performance. It improves cognitive skills for developing situational awareness and problem-solving capabilities.
CRM training focuses on communication skills and behavior within a team and its broader network. It includes leadership and decision-making skills in the context of an aircraft. It allows for learning in situations they may never have anticipated or experienced.
For example, how to respond when a (superior) crew member makes a bad call, when adverse conditions strike, when a fight breaks out, when a passenger refuses to follow safety procedures or other possible contingencies. The personnel must use good judgment and understand the potential consequences of their decisions.
Simulation and Virtual Reality Training in Aviation
Simulations have been an essential element of aviation training for many years. Advances in simulator and virtual reality technology now enable modern flight simulation to accurately mimic real flight operations.
When it comes to developing technical knowledge and practical skills to operate equipment, then simulation training is not only safe but also very cost-effective. For example, training pilots to operate in hazardous conditions like stormy weather, training military crews to program weapons in flight or training pilots to respond to technical failures.
Trainees can repeatedly drill and practice desired procedures and skills so that these become deeply ingrained habits. They can practice everyday flight communication protocols between ground staff and crews as well as more unusual emergency procedures.
Trainees can also learn from their mistakes in a safe environment and see the consequences of wrong actions.
The basic concepts and ideology that make simulation and scenario-based training successful with aviation air crews have also proven successful with other high-risk industries, such as railroad safety regulators, firefighting crews, medical and healthcare practitioners.
Ultimately, both simulation and scenario-based elearning programs empower staff in high-consequence industries to respond optimally in the face of crisis. Just one error could lead to a lethal chain of events.
Where safety is exceptionally critical and the stakes extremely high, conventional learning models can’t compare.
Creating responsive and interactive simulations and scenarios is easier with SimTutor.
- Wiegmann, D. A.; S. A. Shappell (2001). A Human Error Analysis of Commercial Aviation Accidents Using the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS)(PDF). Federal Aviation Administration
- General aviation accidents involving visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions (PDF). NTSB. 1989
- Robert Wright, Why We Lose Control, AV Web, https://www.avweb.com/flight-safety/risk-management/why-we-lose-control/, 26 August 2019