Technology has had a massive impact on every facet of our lives, and nowhere is this more evident in business than in the mining industry. From autonomous drill rigs operated remotely to gigantic haulage trucks driven from hundreds of kilometres away, technology in mining has undergone a revolution. The near future in the industry is one in which human miners and robots work side by side to extract mineral resources more efficiently, safely and sustainably.
But an immediate challenge is the shortage of the right skills to fill a growing technical skills gap, with miners having to be trained in operating new types of machinery, continual updating of safety standards, and the pressure of improving on-the-job efficiencies, especially in a global mining market that’s in a downturn. The sheer relentless speed at which technology is driving change in mining demands a quick, cost-effective way of training workforces, in a way that is consistent, traceable and current.
eLearning has featured in mining’s training programmes for at least the last decade, but has gathered pace in the last eight years as base metal prices have struggled to regain the highs of the late 2010s and early 2011. And faced with the uncertainty of ratings downgrades by investor services companies, massive multinational mining companies have been under ongoing pressure to look for ways to maintain and grow productivity, but at a lower cost.
This is where eLearning ticks all the boxes.
Although the initial cost of setting up an eLearning management system (LMS) may be high, in the long run companies save significantly by doing away with instructor-led training expenses, including salaries of instructors/training facilitators, printing costs of training collateral, hiring of venue/meeting rooms for hosting a training programme, travel and accommodation costs incurred by moving trainees and trainers to and from a training location, and costs of meals during breaks for trainees and facilitators.
By making training content available online through an LMS, a greater number of employees can access it through their cellphones, a laptop or a desktop computer. Electronic content can also be presented in a multitude of ways so that it’s more engaging and memorable for the trainee, such as through a podcast, an animated video, a question-and-answer input form, written text, infographics or GIFS. Often, engaging courseware features a mix of these elements.
It’s crucial throughout an eLearning programme that employers are able to gain insight into what some of the challenges/successes are that trainees are experiencing, and to address them, or leverage them as a means of building a productive eLearning system. An LMS provides daily or on-demand reports of learners’ activity, such as their completion times, how many times they’ve clicked a specific page, to what degree they’ve answered questions, their peak times for visiting the training programme, and which type of questions or sections of the programme have yielded the greatest response.
With so many changes occurring in the mining industry on a frequent basis, there’s a continual need to formulate new programmes, and the challenge to meet consistent standards never goes away. Designing content that is visually consistent (in colour, layout or look) can be easily achieved in an LMS, and quickly adapted from one programme to another. Templates of how the content is presented can also ensure consistency, which may include the same multimedia elements from one programme to another, the same typeface fonts, and familiar navigation icons.
The capacity of eLearning programmes can be quickly increased or decreased in accordance with corporate demands or market volatility. eLearning is also highly cost-effective, which means that as long as base-metal prices experiences the frequent highs and lows they are known for, eLearning’s budget-friendly appeal will help achieve productivity at a lower cost. And once the LMS has been scaled to its needs, the company has something that can yield lasting, meaningful results.