Many online classes provide screens of text followed by a quick quiz. While relatively easy to implement, this approach works against the student’s natural learning patterns, and retention of the material is often minimal. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has developed a cognitive-based, student-centered approach to training that is being applied to interactive, online learning development. This innovative training approach integrates multimedia technology in realistic scenario-based examples that promote student participation rather than the passive “page turning" used in conventional training. The focus is on challenging learners in activities and environments that mimic those they will find in their workplace. This helps the learners “buy in” to the purpose of the training, thus increasing motivation to learn.
Using this approach, PNNL is developing a Building Re-tuning e-learning course to teach how to assess buildings’ energy needs, identify opportunities for improvement, and implement low-cost changes to reduce overall energy consumption. Working closely with subject matter experts who also conduct Building Re-tuning classroom training, the e-learning development team is creating a “hands-on” course that takes the best of classroom and field training to deliver engaging, virtual learning activities.
Participants are actively invovled in scenarios that mimic activities and challenges they would find in the workplace. In one exercise, they get to know the “personality” of a virtual building, collecting pertinent information and analyzing data to detect energy-consuming trends that could be adjusted to decrease costs. In another exercise, students participate in a virtual building walk-down alongside a building manager, who guides them as they inspect the building’s exterior and interior. The students hear from building occupants and examine equipment and rooms in several key areas of the building to identify potential opportunities for improvement.
Key concepts in the course are presented several times and in a variety of ways to improve learner retention of these concepts and to let participants experience the material in more than one context. This combination of presentation formats (text, graphics, animations, and interactions) helps maximize not only student engagement but also instructional effectiveness. For example, trend graphs are introduced via text, and then graphically displayed as static images and animations. Later, students have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding by interacting with trend graphs and determining what the graphs reveal. The ultimate goal is to modify behavior as they transition from the e-learning course to real-world practice in their workplaces.
At the end of the course, rather than taking the standard multiple-choice final exam, students participate in a final, interactive re-tuning exercise that draws on all of the information and techniques they’ve gathered throughout the course. They’ll use the information they’ve collected about the building—the trend data, the input from building occupants, the types of equipment used, etc.—to formulate a re-tuning approach that works for this particular building. In the end, they will take their newly acquired knowledge and techniques back with them to reduce energy consumption and costs in their own buildings and projects.
PNNL has developed a Building Re-tuning approach to detect energy savings opportunities and implement improvements. In addition to onsite training, PNNL is now offering a free interactive e-learning course to anyone interested in improving a building's energy performance and the comfort of the building's occupants.