Miners learn in virtual reality

A 3-D immersive technology headset is the latest addition to the array of learning tools and methodologies in use at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA) at Bentley Park near Carletonville, Gauteng, South Africa
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Education strategies at MRTA Bentley Park include passive and active learning approaches

Staff reporter

PRESS RELEASE: According to Tony Pretorius, education and training department (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation, the academy is constantly absorbing the latest techniques to stay at the leading edge of learning performance for the mining sector.

“While this head-mounted unit – or Vive – has been used mainly in gaming applications, it is an exciting advance in the field of accelerated learning,” said Pretorius. “It can create a super-realistic learning environment, which even allows the user to feel the anxieties of being in potentially dangerous situations, while being completely safe.”

The headset uses ‘room-scale’ tracking technology, allowing the user to move in 3-D space and use motion-tracked handheld controllers to interact with the environment. This helps create the ‘muscle memory’ for students learning at the academy, where they can almost experience the physical conditions of working underground.

“The act of ‘doing’ certain activities, with the help of the Vive makes it easier to learn and remember especially when compared to just reading about it, or even simply seeing and hearing about it,” he added. “While e-learning platforms are also useful, they can lead to cognitive overload which reduces the efficiency of the learning experience.”

Pretorius explained that MRTA is in the initial stages of applying this immersive approach, partnering with technology provider Simulated Training Solutions (STS) to design specific modules related to the tasks and duties to be performed in the workplace.

The scope of the new virtual reality device is almost endless, he claimed, as it can be programmed to reflect any of the typical underground working environments that the learner may encounter. There is also the possibility of generating specific visualisations based on the particular mine where the learner will be placed.

MRTA Bentley Park services not only Murray & Roberts Cementation’s workforce of over 4,600 employees, but also ‘external’ clients in the mining sector. 

In line with its focus on leveraging new technologies for accelerated learning, the academy recently installed Africa’s first virtual reality blast wall with rear-view projection. This offers a 3-D impression of the hard-rock blast wall through the wearing of 3-D glasses.

The academy is also training unemployed members of the communities in which it operates.

The facility recently passed its audit by the Mining Qualifications Authority, and is currently upgrading from the world-class ISO 9001: 2008 standard to ISO’s new 2015 standard.