Style is critical when adults learn differently. That is the view of Steve Vorenkamp, training manager, Wild Well Control, who applies that wisdom in teaching those who work in the oil and gas industry about well control.
“We want to make sure we’re engaging those in our industry,” Mr Vorenkamp told a group of professionals attending the 2009 IADC Well Control Conference of the Americas & Exhibition in Denver on 26 August. “We’re working on changing attitudes and cultures and teaching new technologies in a way that is valuable to our clients, as well as the industry as a whole. It’s not just the teaching, it’s how we apply it.” That philosophy marks a departure from the old regulation-driven system that often rubber-stamped students, allowed a 70% passing grade and utilized the tools of books, homework and tests with little or no follow-up evaluation.
Borrowing from the learning theory embraced by a Boston University professor, Mr Vorenkamp says there are six ways adults learn. They are self-motivated, need hands-on learning, see the value of learning, can immediately apply what they have learned, bring experience to the learning process and learn best from problem-based exercises. He utilizes a four-level evaluation process to measure adult learning, including reaction to the course, test assessment, whether the materials can be used in a real-life situation and return on investment of the training. Rather than develop a curriculum from the required content, “our first step should be to decide who are we teaching, what they are bringing to the classroom and how we can meet their needs,” Mr Vorenkamp said, noting that IADC employs that philosophy in its WellCAP Plus training program. For well control training, he breaks the course down into five areas, including an introduction with case studies; information that is relevant to jobs; competence simulation and evaluation; action review and application. “Problem solving real-world situations and theoretical and practical instruction are important here,” Mr Vorenkamp noted. “Simulations build on experience. “Remember, when we talk about interactivity, it’s a blended learning experience itself.” Repetition is also critical, he continued. “Repetition leads to retention, and retention leads to increased skill levels, which leads to increased return on investment for the individual and the company.” The action review part of the process should analyze not just the students, but the instructors as well, he said, asking such questions as, Did the course hit the mark? Will it work based on your experience? Is it measurable? And what is the value to the company? “We should continuously be thinking outside the box to make sure we are reaching our people and meeting the value we are looking for, rather than looking at it as something we’ve got to have. It has to be of value or it’s not worth our time to do it. “We need to keep our expectations high,” Mr Vorenkamp continued, recalling the thinking that suggests nine of 10 incidents are caught early so it’s not a problem. “We have a built a billion-dollar company on Number 10,” he said.