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Being smart is child’s play with e-Learning

Vocational school students have to cram a lot of material. Now a new e-Learning software for prospective metal technologists enables young people to tackle complex assignments with greater ease in virtual work environments.

No desire to hit the books and cram boring material? Young people in particular would much rather spend their time with computer games than with textbooks. How can young people get motivated to complete assignments with more enthusiasm? The Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF and the textbook publisher Westermann in Braunschweig start with what young people like to do: They are exploiting young people’s enthusiasm for computer games. Together with the publisher’s editors, researchers at the IFF have developed a software intended to make it easier for prospective metals technologists to learn the material in their first year of vocational training. “Just like in a computer game, young people move through a virtual world,” explains Heike Kissner, IFF project manager of the e-Learning concept. “In this virtual work environment, trainees have to complete assignments from various educational modules.” One example: A complex drilling jig has fallen from a shelf onto the floor. In order to check whether it is still in one piece or parts are missing, trainees disassemble it step by step. To do so, they mouse click on a particular screw to be loosened and the corresponding screwdriver. If the student has selected the right tool, the screw loosens. Another scenario is a gluing jig: The researchers have coupled the 3-D jig with its 2-D pneumatic diagram. Thus, students are not only able to perform virtual gluing processes but also track the airflow path. Trainees concretely and sustainably “grasp” the theoretical foundations from class and can immediately try them out on their own. Metals technology instructors profit from the educational software too – classes can be organized more dynamically. The CD-ROM with the interactive software “Metals Technology: Basic Knowledge” is supplemented by print materials such as a conventional textbook. Metals technology experts supplied the substantive and pedagogical know-how and divided the material into meaningful learning fields. The researchers at the Fraunhofer IFF used their Virtual Reality Platform to work up modern machinery and systems as well as tools based on their three-dimensional design data. This makes them visually “graspable” as virtual models in the interactive 3-D educational software. The CD-ROM from Westermann Verlag is available in bookstores (ISBN 978-314-364203-0).

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