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Customized Refresher and Just-in-Time Training for Long-Duration Spaceflight Crew

Principal Investigator:
Stephen K. Robinson, Ph.D.

University of California at Davis, Human/Robotics/Vehicle Integration and Performance Laboratory

Astronauts on long-duration missions are certain to be faced with critical and complex tasks for which the crewmember has either not recently trained, or has never been trained. In addition, in-flight crew hours are among the most precious of resources in human spaceflight, so onboard training efficiency is currently of prime importance. The question is how best to bring an inflight astronaut up to evaluated readiness to perform a complex and critical task, after a significant period since final ground-training. This concern is reflected in the NASA Human Research Program’s Human Research Roadmap Knowledge Gap SHFE-TRAIN-03, which asks, “How can onboard training systems be designed to address Just in Time (JIT) and recurrent training needs for nominal and off-nominal scenarios?”

Thus, the challenge addressed in this proposal is how to most efficiently conduct (A) Refresher/Concurrent Training for tasks that have been previously mastered but not practiced for months, and (B) Just-in-Time training for tasks which have never been specifically trained, but which represent an integration of existing astronaut skills. We are investigating combinations of procedures plus self-produced videos for refresher training, and the effectiveness of learning-style customization for Just-In-Time training products.

NASA Taskbook Entry

Technical Summary

The overall objective of our research is to develop and evaluate novel, context-sensitive, and customized onboard training techniques that address both refresher training (for re-acquisition of expert performance) and just-in-time training (for tasks that have not been specifically trained previously, but require the integration of existing astronaut skills).

To achieve this objective an experimental research program is underway at UC Davis and at MIT to test the hypothesis that multimedia (audio/video) training which is customized for the crewmember can be more effective than traditional, generic training. Our goal is to quantitatively demonstrate the advantages of the customized training via formal experiments using our technique for supplementing and customizing traditional training with individualized multimedia.

Currently, ISS on-board training is accomplished through a combination of uplinked procedure review and Computer-Based Training on laptops. Experiments are also currently under way at NASA JSC to assess the value of various types of video-based training, both as pre-procedure overviews, and as embedded clips to be viewed during the task.

Virtually all current onboard ISS training is developed for generic crewmembers, without customization. This one-size fits all approach is both traditional and provides the lowest production cost, but does not take advantage of each crewmember’s individual background, experience, and learning style. As a result, cost savings on the ground may actually reduce training efficiency and effectiveness in flight, where crew-time is extremely costly and consequences of training ineffectiveness (e.g. errors) can be costly as well. In recent years, the value of using “deliberate practice” training strategies [Ericsson] to acquire expert performance has been recognized. Trainees take an introspective approach to evaluating their own performance, based on quantitative metrics. However, far less attention has yet been paid to the important related problem of how to efficiently maintain and regain expert performance in complex tasks across layoff periods.

Our team’s research is meant to define, develop, and test customized training pedagogies for refresher and just-in-time onboard training by formalizing, extending and evaluating a technique explored by several of us (Robinson, Burbank, Byrne, Mindock) at NASA JSC in 2009-2011. This pilot study explored the hypothesis that crew-produced videos (made at the completion of pre-launch training for specific subtasks in maintenance, tools, robotics, and stowage categories) would be as effective as and considerably more efficient than generic training materials.

Robinson and Burbank produced these videos for their own missions (STS-130 and ISS30) with small, hand-held digital cameras, usually with an instructor filming the astronaut narrating a brief review of the highlights, critical points, “gotchas”, and tool uses for a specific subtask. Each video compressed hours of training into minutes, and functioned as a personalized audio-visual crib sheet for use on orbit. The video files were stored on ISS and Shuttle laptops, and could be quickly accessed in the minutes before execution of a complex and/or safety-critical procedure.

The self-produced videos were simple to produce and access, although a searchable-database approach would aid efficiency if there were more than a few. The ability to incorporate customized videos into procedures as front-matter or embedded elements (following the current NASA JSC study for generic training videos) is also being examined. In all cases, viewing the videos on orbit resulted in a very rapidly-generated sense of regaining the trained peak of expertise and knowledge for the subtask at hand. The degree to which this sense of crewmember self-confidence correlates with improved task-performance is still an open question, but in all cases tested, performance on orbit was accurate and confusion-free.

With this encouraging pilot study as groundwork, the first goal of our proposed research (Study A) is to determine what aspects make self-produced training materials effective, and what remediable issues are encountered in their use, and then to experimentally validate their effectiveness in individual training on several laboratory tasks (specifically, robotics tasks and complex-system maintenance tasks) on volunteer subjects.

The second goal of our research (Study B) is to develop and experimentally evaluate techniques for personalizing training videos for just-in-time training, by customizing the contents for each subject’s learning/execution styles. We hypothesize that the elements essential to the effectiveness of self-made customized training videos can be identified then captured in customized (but not self-made) videos for just-in-time onboard training. Experimental validation will include testing to determine subject learning styles, developing customization attributes for each type of lesson, and laboratory testing using the same tasks as for the first goal. We hypothesize that even in the case of an Astronaut preparing for a novel (previously untrained) onboard task, matching the learning style with the teaching style should lead to consistently and measurably improved performance.

Earth Applications

Development, maintenance and re-acquisition of expertise is central to many types of human endeavor, especially safety-critical ones such as aviation, undersea operations, and medicine. Humans operating in any hazardous and remote environments may require training capabilities to support autonomous acquisition and reacquisition of skills. Inadequate states of training are commonly related to skill-based errors such as task execution mistakes. Even in the highly trained military aviation environment, more than half of accidents in a multi-year meta-analysis have been shown to be associated with skill-based errors, and human error in general is widely accepted to contribute to 70% to 80% of all aviation accidents. This research will lead to the reduction of the likelihood of such errors and accidents due to inadequate training.