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VATUSA Controller CBTs


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A spirited (and civil!) exchange of ideas occurred tonight on vattastic.com regarding VATUSA's new CBTs required to take the S1 exam. Rather than let it just be a venting session, I thought I would bring the grievances and suggestions forward here for consideration by VATUSA in general rather than the handful of individuals present...

 

[Disclaimer: I'm no longer a part of any training department and haven't experienced any training under the new system. Just reporting what I read tonight.]

 

The concern was that the system did a poor job of preparing a S1 controller to work ground at a major airport. Specifically, the CBTs are a poor substitute for training by an instructor. The CBTs have the following shortcomings:

 

1. The CBT answers can be googled or read verbatim right out of provided docomeents.

2. The CBTs do not provide any depth of understanding. They focus on the answers alone, rather than the reasons.

3. The CBTs are out of date and cannot easily be future-proofed.

4. The CBTs do not cater to different learning styles.

 

An informal majority agreed with an idea that prospective controllers' first step after signing up should be direct contact with a reliable mentor or instructor.

 

The idea was given of a teacher presenting a slideshow like the CBT but ellaborating upon the content and interacting with students.

 

Separately, it was mentioned by multiple pilots that controller feedback does not resolve issues. At least one said he or she does not submit feedback because of this.

 

I'll leave my personal ideas out of the original post, since those venting on Vattastic already got bits and pieces of my opinions.

Steven Perry

VATSIM Supervisor

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problem is the network must try to reduce the amount of time an instructor/teacher is required to spend with a student. its simply unsustainable as we already know. what you recommend can be done though, via video lessons, where the presenter can present the material. works for online college courses, no reason it cant work for us. take some hints from https://www.m0a.com, hes a very good presenter. im sure we have at least one in the community who is able to present in the same fashion (more then likely more then one in the training staff)

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What if we don't have the human resources to give personal instruction? I mention it because we don't. Should we then just throw up our hands and quit training altogether? When I first join SATCO (pre-VATSIM) all training was by CBT and recorded files (and we didn't have voice comms at all).

 

What evidence does this pilot have that feedback isn't acted on? What happens in the background isn't published.

 

If the quiz answers can't be found in the material that would suggest the material is deficient, not the quiz.

 

In the end a quiz won't ensure proficiency, only practice will do that. The student will likely make mistakes during that practice and CoC demands pilots be tolerant of that learning curve just as controllers must tolerate pilots lack of proficiency during their learning curve.

Kyle Ramsey

 

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There's nothing about the CBTs that says facilities can't provide additional training once a student has p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed them. I think the theory was to combine the S1 training with the Basic ATC Exam, so that students at least had something when they were first joining a facility.

 

I don't profess to speak for VATUSA, so that's a discussion and question I will let them answer.

 

As far as I know, once a student p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]es the S1 CBT and joins a facility, that facility could still choose to provide additional human contact and/or complete an OTS before issuing the certification and accordingly the S1.

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Evan Reiter
Boston Virtual ARTCC/ZBW Community Manager

 

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problem is the network must try to reduce the amount of time an instructor/teacher is required to spend with a student. its simply unsustainable as we already know. what you recommend can be done though, via video lessons, where the presenter can present the material. works for online college courses, no reason it cant work for us

 

In some ARTCCs, I can most certainly agree there is little training staff around. That is a problem not many people are willing to get their hands dirty. An instructor, unlike a video, can answer mostly any of one's questions about what something means. Another thing is that reducing the time spent with an instructor, many fear, will reduce the quality of the controllers on VATSIM. It seems like quantity over quality here. Pilots can hop right on, controllers can't, therefore, a reasonable expectation for quality of controllers should be there for us.

 

What if we don't have the human resources to give personal instruction? I mention it because we don't. Should we then just throw up our hands and quit training altogether? When I first join SATCO (pre-VATSIM) all training was by CBT and recorded files (and we didn't have voice comms at all).

What evidence does this pilot have that feedback isn't acted on? What happens in the background isn't published.

I think every ARTCC in VATUSA has at least one mentor/instructor who is around. If not, then we have a huge problem. One person himself isn't enough. As I said, it's an issue not many are willing to address.

 

As for feedback, more often than not it depends on who and where this is being filed. If I were to file feedback, I would expect to hear back from a staff member thanking me for my feedback, with an expectation that if there is an issue, it will be acted upon. If a pilot files feedback on a controller, it's because he cares, and he wants to know that everyone at the facility cares too, and if no response is initiated by said facility, then that gives me the impression they don't care.

 

There's nothing about the CBTs that says facilities can't provide additional training once a student has p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed them. I think the theory was to combine the S1 training with the Basic ATC Exam, so that students at least had something when they were first joining a facility.

 

Well said sir! Sorry for the really awkward analogy, but think of S1 training as a hollow tube. When you obtain your rating, that tube is full. When I got my S1 in Miami, I had several sessions starting from scratch. By starting from scratch, that tube can be 100% full, and that's the goal. My problem is by using CBTs, that tube is still going to be somewhat hollow, or that student will not have had the most complete training experience that he would've gotten with an instructor or mentor.

 

Probably the best and most thoughtful discussion I've ever had, and I'm open to continuing it here!

 

Take care,

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A spirited (and civil!) exchange of ideas occurred tonight on vattastic.com regarding VATUSA's new CBTs required to take the S1 exam. Rather than let it just be a venting session, I thought I would bring the grievances and suggestions forward here for consideration by VATUSA in general rather than the handful of individuals present...

 

[Disclaimer: I'm no longer a part of any training department and haven't experienced any training under the new system. Just reporting what I read tonight.]

 

The concern was that the system did a poor job of preparing a S1 controller to work ground at a major airport.

 

That isn't what the CBTs are designed for. The CBTs are designed to INTRODUCE the student to the basics, that's it.

 

Specifically, the CBTs are a poor substitute for training by an instructor. The CBTs have the following shortcomings:

 

Yup, the CBTs aren't meant to replace the training. They're to augment or supplement training to alleviate instructors from having teaching the books. The goal: reduce training time for each student by giving them a place to study without using an instructor's valuable time. That's why after the Basic/S1 exam you aren't promoted to S1.... you still go through training and the practical exam as required in the Global Ratings Policy.

 

1. The CBT answers can be googled or read verbatim right out of provided docomeents.

 

The CBT is based off those docomeents, so yes you should be able to read them verbatim... though the CBT isn't the test so there are no "answers" in a CBT as there are no questions... the CBT is the cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]room portion. The exam (which is separate) is an open book exam as provided on the first slide of the exam that you are supposed to read prior to beginning.

 

2. The CBTs do not provide any depth of understanding. They focus on the answers alone, rather than the reasons.

 

Neither does the .65, AIM, etc.

 

3. The CBTs are out of date and cannot easily be future-proofed.

 

They're usually a Google Slides docomeent that is easily modifiable to those with access, so it is in fact future proof as any online material can be. As far as being out of date, I've gone through them and provided a list of correct months ago to the VATUSA3... most of which have been corrected. So a majority of it is in line with FAA teachings, unless there is something more specific you wish to point out, which can be provided to VATUSA3 for quick modification.

 

4. The CBTs do not cater to different learning styles.

 

Online training material usually cannot cater to a bunch of different learning styles... that's the unfortunate thing about online training material. Go take an online college level course, you'll find the same thing.

 

An informal majority agreed with an idea that prospective controllers' first step after signing up should be direct contact with a reliable mentor or instructor.

 

Yup, the CBTs are an introduction only so that a mentor/instructor isn't required to hand hold through the .65, AIM, etc. It gives you an introduction to the position so that the instructor/mentor can focus on facility-specific items much like the FAA Academy teaches fundamentals and you learn specifics, hows and whys at your first facility.

 

Separately, it was mentioned by multiple pilots that controller feedback does not resolve issues. At least one said he or she does not submit feedback because of this.

 

That's an unfortunate thing about VATSIM, once a rating is earned .. it is earned and cannot be taken away. Not all volunteers are open to criticism or updated training... but that's a topic for a different discussion.

 

--

 

That said: I was and continue to be against an entrance exam (which is what this is). But I'm the IT guy, it's not my call. As the designer and builder of the CBT, Exam System and the VATUSA website I'm responding from that point of view. There seems to be some confusion on the purpose behind the CBT engine on vattastic* (*using ONLY your post as reference as I wasn't on vattastic) and in this post. CBTs are not meant to replace instructors, only to augment the instructional staff so they can spend less time teaching the basics of the position and more time on facility specific information and the application portion. It is loosely based off the CBT system used by ZNY, which exists with the same capacity... it's there to augment the instructional staff.

 

Edit: I've sent this to the Div Director, Deputy Director and Training Director. They may add to the conversation about their thoughts in addition to what's above (minus my "That said" which is mostly my opinion).

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Well said sir! Sorry for the really awkward analogy, but think of S1 training as a hollow tube. When you obtain your rating, that tube is full. When I got my S1 in Miami, I had several sessions starting from scratch. By starting from scratch, that tube can be 100% full, and that's the goal. My problem is by using CBTs, that tube is still going to be somewhat hollow, or that student will not have had the most complete training experience that he would've gotten with an instructor or mentor.

 

You don't and aren't supposed to be considered ready just because you completed the written exam. This is also addressed in the Orientation block of the Basic/S1 CBT on slide 7. The expectation is, this fills your hollow tube with the basics of the S1 requirements and you finish filling it when you get to your first facility (not all VATUSA subdivisions are ARTCCs ), borrowing your analogy. I'm not sure where the misconception that CBTs are meant to replace instructional staff came from, as that isn't an accurate representation. It's like attending the FAA Academy, learning Clearance Delivery/Ground and then going to your first facility to learn the facility specifics. No matter where in the US you are, Clearance and Ground use the same phraseology and same regulations. Local procedures aren't addressed, but that's not what the CBTs attempt to cover... only the basics of the position that apply to the entire FAA system (minus San Juan, which is FAA realworld and VATCAR on VATSIM).

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The CBTS's were never meant to replace what you will learn from your local MTR & INS. The CBT's are the equivalent of the textbook that you get the first day of cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]. It shows you what you will cover during the course of your training, what you will be expected to know and what you will be tested on. It is an introduction to what we do, and the basic book of knowledge that you will need to know to do the job.

 

Chapter One explains what the air traffic control system is. Chapter two introduces you to the basic software you will use. And it goes on from there. You shouldn't need to take up the time of a MTR or INS to set up VRC. But after you have they are there to help you learn how to properly use it.

 

The CBT's are the basics. It's what you will need to know. It isn't meant to teach you how to control, it is meant to introduce you to what you will need to know in order to control.

 

As far as leaving feedback is concerned, every pilot knows a controller who says that the ARTCC they belong to doesn't take any action based on the feedback that is received. Well I can't speak for all of the ARTCC/FIR's out there, but I can tell you that the ones I have been involved with take it pretty seriously. Of course the action taken depends very much on how the feedback was written and what it is about. Feedback that begins with controller John Doe sux isn't going to garner as much attention as one that is a couple of sentences long, direct and to the point. At least that's my experience. YMMV....

 

Ira Robinson

Deputy Director, VATUSA

[email protected]

__________

Ira Robinson

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What Daniel and Ira said.

 

And, to add, if there are folks that have a concern that feedback is not being listened to, there is a chain of command to follow. First, the facility ATM. Next, the ATD. Finally, me, the Division Director. Generally for the Division, feedback is certainly taken seriously and is a learning tool for us all. On occasion, feedback given is technically incorrect. In these cases, the facility should provide the reporter with an explanatory reply. And on rare occasion, there may be feedback that slips through the cracks. If there are trends with that, the ATDs want to hear about it, and so do I, so it can be corrected.

 

Vattastic is a great resource that adds a lot to our hobby, as are many other social media, but social media is certainly not a replacement for folks addressing their concerns with the staff members that can take action and help us continually improve.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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Since I am directly responsible for the creation of the VATUSA CBT's, I will respond to each concern in addition to providing a brief history of the current VATUSA Training Program. The very first thing to understand is that the VATUSA Training Program is currently still under development. A Strategic Plan for VATUSA Training as a whole was presented almost a year ago to VATUSA Division outlining the program in its entirety.

 

A Town Hall style meeting occurred on September 26, 2016 where the initial idea of the program was suggested by a very respected member of the VATSIM Community who serves as a staff member and Instructor at a VATUSA ARTCC. This individual professionally works in the aviation industry as a pilot.

 

The suggestion was to have new members [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned to a VATUSA Academy where they would receive basic theory training on the ATC system. After the meeting a poll was posted in the VATUSA forum where Training Administrators could vote for different options. The idea that was presented in the initial meeting received a vote of over 75%.

 

The biggest concern that was brought forth that evening was the amount of time that Instructors have to spend with a student to go over very basic information that the student should know from pre-reading a lesson, this included basic set up of the VRC client. This situation coupled with other factors was leading to Instructor burnout hence part of the problem with limited Instructors. One of the other issues with Instructors is time availability specifically students who live in different time zones are struggling to meet with Instructors for training because of the differences in time. This of course is an issue that will always be an issue as it is something that is beyond our control.

 

Another issue is the VATUSA Training Program has not seen any updates in over 10 years. New practices have come about as a result of changes in procedures to include RNAV/GPS approaches, RNAV SIDS and RNAV STARS. These new procedures were not covered in the outdated training materials.

 

Once the Strategic Plan was presented to Division and approved, a workgroup of volunteers from three different ARTCC's met on several occasions and developed the current BASIC ATC/S1 Training material as well as basic Clearance Delivery and Ground Operations. Once a student has successfully p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed the NEW S1 Examination they select the ARTCC of their choice and once there will receive further Instruction by their Instructor who will also promote them to S1. Currently a workgroup is working diligently to put together new material for S2. I am hopeful that sometime within the next few months that this will be released.

 

1. The CBT answers can be googled or read verbatim right out of provided docomeents.

TRUE - The Basic ATC/S1 CBT and exam was based off of training docomeents provided by various ARTCC's in VATUSA, the Legacy Training Docomeent (Outdated VATUSA Training Docomeent) and the 7110.65. Some of the material was copied and pasted.

 

2. The CBTs do not provide any depth of understanding. They focus on the answers alone, rather than the reasons.

This is certainly a perception but understandably it should be understood that the Basic ATC/S1 Training is exactly as its name implies (BASIC)

 

3. The CBTs are out of date and cannot easily be future-proofed.

FALSE - The CBT's were brand new and created by a team of VATUSA members from three different ARTCC's using the original training material, 7110.65 and training docomeents made available with permission from various VATUSA ARTCC's. Furthermore the CBT's have already seen revision since they were originally released in January of this year. One of the initiatives of the VATUSA Training Department is to develop a team that will act in the capacity of advisors similar to some ARTCC's Facility Advisory Boards; while this team has not been officially selected as of this writing, a few individuals have already been contacted and requested to sit on this board.

 

4. The CBTs do not cater to different learning styles.

TRUE - The CBT's are a form of visual learning. The other forms of learning are Physically, Aurally, Verbally, Logically, Socially and Solitary. The CBT's could also fall under the Solitary style of learning.

 

In terms of what information a student retains, studies indicate that students in general will only retain 20% of what they gain from audio-visual material. Since the CBT's certainly fall within the Audio-Visual Type of presentation, it could be said that students who view a CBT will only retain 20% of what they have viewed. Since the VATUSA training program is NOT relying solely on the CBT's to train students, the majority of their learning will occur when they are able to receive Instruction from their respective Instructors. For the record the same studies indicate that a student retains 75% of what they learn from actual practice (Sweatbox, Controlling Live while being mentored) and furthermore can retain 30% from actual demonstrations. The CBT's contain videos that offer some demonstrations but more importantly a demonstration can be obtained by Observing which is encouraged and also can be provided by their Instructor.

 

All new VATUSA Instructors are now required to go through an Instructor Training Program which address How a Student Learns and How a Student Retains Information. Instructors are encouraged to think outside the box in their methods of teaching to insure that the student gets the very best training possible.

 

The last thing to address is the standard of the overall program. The program is designed to be compliant with the VATSIM Global Rating Policy (GRP)

 

2.1 For the controller ratings described above (except S1), the essential knowledge and skill components for each Air Traffic Service (ATS) position shown are the required elements of competency listed for that rating. A complete list of VATSIM ATC Competencies is attached as Appendix A to this policy.

 

3.1 Each Training Department is responsible for determining its own testing and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essment methods in order to establish competency in respect of each rating level, however such tests and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essments must be in accordance with paragraph 3.2 of this policy.

 

3.2 The following requirements apply to ATC tests and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essments:

 

A. The tests/[Mod - Happy Thoughts]essments for each rating level MUST include both a theory test and for all ratings above S1 a practical [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essment also.

 

B. A satisfactory p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] with a minimum score of 80% in the theory test shall be a prerequisite to sitting the [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ociated practical [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essment

 

C. Training and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essment methods must be of efficient design in order to minimize delays; particularly for those seeking to become a new controller.

 

The CBT's were only intended to address the Basic theory as listed in 3.2 Section A.

 

In conclusion, I hope that this response has answered any questions or concerns about the VATUSA Training Program. Specific questions can be sent to me at [email protected], or sent via a VATUSA Support Ticket.

Mark Hubbert

Division Director VATUSA

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