E-learning is a viable solution to improve literacy and operating skills across mines in Africa, says online training provider The Training Room Online sales director Buff van Westenbrugge.
Many mines across Africa are in remote locations, and, therefore, it is costly and difficult to transport skilled training contractors to site to train personnel. E-Learning is an effective training solution as mineworkers do not need to be split into groups to ensure they get the attention they need – each worker can work through training material at his/her own pace, based on his/her basic education and knowledge of the area of expertise the training focuses on.
E-learning offers mining operations the opportunity to compile quality training programs, which use quality trainers or experts, and then relay it to workers using online or appropriate digital training techniques to deliver programs to any location, whether Internet access is available or not.
E-learning also ensures that workers across all mine divisions and operations receive the same training and identical message with no variation, says The Training Room Online MD Kirsty Chadwick.
“E-learning offers standardised quality which training operators find difficult to provide, requiring them to give the same amount of attention to all workers and train all staff according to the same standards, regardless of their education or experience level.”
She stresses that the training solutions provided by The Training Room Online are viable for poor, illiterate African countries as the training materials and content can be adapted and optimised to suit the specific needs of a country and its workers.
Van Westenbrugge emphasises that e-learning offers an economy of scale, providing the potential to train an unlimited number of workers at little to no additional cost. Mining companies can ensure that training of an international standard is applied across all operations.
“We create training programmes according to the needs of mining companies. Therefore, we can tailor the program to meet multiple language requirements and various levels of understanding. Video demonstrations are also added to provide workers with a glimpse of actual scenarios that may be encountered during mining operations and [strategies] to tackle them,” Chadwick explains.
She notes that illiteracy is a significant challenge faced across Africa. The number of people needing training and the different mining legislations of each country can also prove challenging when training people in Africa.
Chadwick adds that, while most mining companies choose to present training courses to workers in English, it has proved more effective for training institutions to teach workers in their mother tongue.
“We try to make courses language specific and the mother tongue is preferable as better results are achieved. However, as mining houses are international, they sometimes prefer workers to be taught in English.”
For example, the majority of the mineworkers in Kwazulu-Natal speak Zulu. “While some of the e-learning courses created are presented to them in English, they are then translated into Zulu to ensure full comprehension.
“We feel strongly that e-learning, as with any training medium, is more powerful if presented in the mother tongue, improving the outcome of the learning experience and protecting the worker and his employer from the potential consequences of poor training.”
Van Westenbrugge further adds that, owing to similar challenges and incidents occurring on mines, e-learning, skills development and training approaches can be developed into fundamental training courses which are all relevant to mines across Africa. The Training Room Online uses a blended digital approach when developing its courses.
“We incorporate a clicker system into our digital training courses, which involves workers being asked multiple-choice questions on the course content. They then need to choose the correct answer on the clicker control pad.
“This enables course instructors to assess whether every worker understands the material and revise certain modules, if necessary.”
Chadwick emphasises that ongoing training is imperative to ensure that efficiency-boosting health and safety standards are adhered to at mining operations.
Infrastructure across Africa is improving and, therefore, there is an increased interest in e-learning, she says.
“E-learning is set to make a significant difference across Africa as it is consistent, standardised, on demand, available in multiple languages and suited to the specific needs of mines and workers. “This improves efficiency and literacy and, in turn, the quality of life of workers across Africa,” Chadwick concludes.