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In our ever-improving world of technological advancements, our training practices are following suit. The articles today look at two methods of training that utilize these technological advancements. This week were asking questions about robots:

  1. Do chatbot-based learning programs improve outcomes?
  2. How does VR training perform compared to in-person training when learning to operate a robot?

Let's boot up our brains and get into the articles!

To Chat or Not to Chat?

In the current study, chatbots are referenced as applications that interact with users with a chatting-like interface (Chang, Hwang, & Gau, 2021). Essentially, chatbots are an artificial intelligence (AI) product that utilizes natural language processing to converse with a user. For more information on this and natural language processing, check out Issue #54 of LSW. While research around AI has increased drastically over the past few years, work looking at chatbots in relation to professional training has been sparse (Chang et al., 2021). However, research has shown that providing personalized support for learners when acquiring complex skills and knowledge leads to higher levels of learning performance and self-efficacy. Unfortunately, individualized training is not always feasible. Thus, the researchers of this study sought to understand if a mobile chatbot-based learning approach would similarly improve learning outcomes and self-efficacy (Cheng et al., 2021).

The study was conducted with nursing students being trained in an obstetric vaccination course. Participants were split by class, with one class serving as the control classroom and the other as the experimental classroom. Both classrooms began the process by filling out a pre-test and pre-questionnaire. The control classroom received instruction as they typically would, through a conventional didactic instructional approach (AKA a lecture); the experimental classroom, however, received instruction through a mobile chatbot-based approach. Finally, all participants completed a vaccine knowledge training, post-test, post-questionnaire, and interview (Chang et al., 2021).

Learners in the mobile chatbot-based learning approach showed significantly higher scores on the test, compared to the control group. Thus, the chatbot did show an ability to improve learning achievement outcomes (Chang et al., 2021). Further, those in the chatbot group illustrated high levels of self-efficacy and expressed a more positive/engaging learning experience during the interview (Change et al., 2021).

Key Takeaways: When training complex skills, consider utilizing a mobile chatbot-learning approach to engage learners! If this is not feasible, be sure to add interpolated questions throughout courses to improve information organization and learning (see: LSW Issue #49).

Read More ($): Chang, C. Y., Hwang, G. J., & Gau, M. L. (2021). Promoting students learning achievement and self-efficacy: A mobile chatbot approach for nursing training. British Journal of Educational Technology, 1-18.

Training for a Demolition Robot

As we all know, Im always up for learning new things - so I was excited to delve a bit into the construction world! This article aimed to assess how virtual reality (VR) training compared to in-person training for construction workers knowledge, skills, and safety behavior (Adami, Rodrigues, Woods, Becerik-Gerber, Soibelman, Copu-Gencturk, & Lucas, 2021).

So, why would VR benefit the construction industry over experiential learning? Well, the authors point out that while hands-on learning is incredibly beneficial, some construction tasks simply cannot be taught immediately with hands-on training due to safety concerns. They point out that VR simulations provide a tool for workers to acquire hands-on experience without putting themselves at risk if they fail at training tasks (Adami et al., 2021). Specifically, the VR training in this study is focused on how to teleoperate a demolition robot. This approach is a novel one in that past research focused on other types of heavy machinery, there is no work to date that has assessed the role of VR in teleoperated machinery (Adami et al., 2021).

Construction workers completed a knowledge assessment prior to partaking in training. They were then randomly assigned to either VR-based training or in-person training. For the VR-based course, trainees worked through a set of seven modules, totalling roughly 2 hours, that would provide immediate feedback on their performance (i.e., warning messages for unsafe behavior). Images from the VR training environment, as well as the equipment, are below (Adami et al., 2021).

(Adami et al., 2021)
(Adami et al., 2021)

The in-person training covered the same areas as the VR-based training. Trainees were shown how to operate the demolition robot and were provided with a brief period to practice it themselves (Adami et al., 2021). Upon completion of their training sessions, both groups completed the knowledge assessment survey again. They also had a performance assessment, in which they completed tasks with the actual demolition robot while the trainer rated their operational skills and safety behaviors (Adami et al., 2021).

While both groups showed improvement in knowledge acquisition after training, the trainees in the VR-based training illustrated greater knowledge gains than those in the in-person training. Further, significantly better safety behavior and operational skills were observed for those in the VR-based training group (Adami et al., 2021). The results from this study show that VR technology can be a useful tool when training new employees on complex skills, particularly those that might be dangerous if conducted in a hands-on manner (see: LSW Issue #28 for more on why this is also true for astronauts ). This study adds to the growing literature regarding the benefits of VR-based training and its efficacy in applied training settings. Further, it provides a way to individualize training, since trainees are receiving immediate feedback from the system to correct any mistakes. Overall, the authors say it best: VR represents a safe and accessible format for construction training, one that the industry should further develop as the field increasingly adopts robots in real-world applications (Adami et al., 2021).

Key Takeaway: Virtual reality based training provides an individualized training experience and can outperform in-person training when learning complex or dangerous skills. If VR is not accessible, try to replicate some of the reasons VR is great. You might consider providing trainees with plenty of opportunities to have individualized practice sessions in a low-risk environment!

Read More ($): Adami, P., Rodrigues P. B., Woods, P. J., Becerik-Gerber, B., Soibelman, L., Copu-Gencturk, Y., & Lucas, G. (2021). Effectiveness of VR-based training on improving construction workers knowledge, skills, and safety behavior in robotic teleoperation. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 50.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week, we get the treat of TWO cuties! Reader Sam R. shared her sweet pups, Storm, a white Japanese Akita, & Hugo, a Cross Mastiff. Their favorite activity is to run/play with their human children! Thanks for sharing, Sam

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why were including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But were banking on the baby schema effect and the power of Kawaii. So, send us your cute pet pics -- youre helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Kaitlyn Erhardt, Ph.D.

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