Attention and virtual training


When COVID and mobility restrictions hit in 2020, virtual training (i.e. education in a virtual environment), where synchronised learning takes place, with everybody connected at the same time, sounded like a panacea for ab-initio air traffic control training, where ab-initio is defined as programs that take an individual with very little or no experience and create a competent, professional controller.

Indian young business woman student teacher tutor wear wireless headset video conference calling on laptop computer talk by webcam learn teach in online chat, distance webinar online teaching concept

This kind of education resolved our short-term problems in the theory phases of ab-initio Air Traffic Controller training while students were in the middle of their COVID-19 interrupted courses. There were two options at the beginning of the shutdown, either cancel the training, or quickly jump to full virtual courses. The virtual training provided more flexibility, more options, and short-term solutions in those difficult times. However, there remain some limitations that should be considered before implementing virtual education more widely, and it is not always the best solution when onsite training is available.

One of the main differences with virtual education is the self-discipline required to follow a theory course on a screen with multiple micro-distractions. It is common for a person attending a virtual meeting or course, for example, to attempt to multi-task by answering emails, looking at WhatsApp, or turning their camera off to avoid being seen. Learning requires attention, and effective educational environments foster students’ full attention and focus. As the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman noted: “How we deploy our attention determines what we see.”

While virtual training can be an adequate tool for certain types of education, such as continuous training where the participants have previous experience and are updating knowledge, for most ab-initio training, online education may not be the best option. Some students will perform well in either onsite or virtual courses, although other students, like most people, may not be able to overcome the environmental and micro-distraction challenges that occur in a virtual setting. Virtual training is a great resource that needs to be implemented carefully and after a full assessment of its reliability in the training organisations.

Was your attention fully focused while reading?

The following articles are provided, from different authors, and point out the importance of attention in the learning process:

Amishi Jha. Professor of psychology at the University of Miami. She has different studies about attention and focus. I recommend the reading of her book Peak Mind:

”…. Protect and strengthen our most precious resource: our attention.”

Daniel Goleman. Psychologist, and science journalist. For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, reporting on the brain and behavioural sciences.

In his book Focus “…..notes that how we deploy our attention determines what we see.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (Psychologist). He wrote the  famous book Flow-The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

“….attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience”.

About the Author

Miguel Caparrós

Miguel Caparrós has a degree in Education and a master’s degree in Psychoeducation. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 14 years in the Spanish Navy and he is Co-Chair in the Human Performance Working Group. Miguel assumed the role of Director of Air Traffic Control Training in FTEJerez, Spain in 2011.

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