What barriers will technology never overcome?

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The joint project launched in October 2017 as part of the "Digital Media in Vocational Education" funding program, to which - in addition to the Märkischer Kreis vocational training center - the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, the University of Siegen, imc AG from Saarbrücken and the AWS Institute for digital products and processes belong, developed a web-based virtual learning platform in which practical learning scenarios can be used that enable inclusion in the craft. In an interview with qualifikationdigital.de, Udo Petruschkat, master vehicle technician from the vocational training center of the Märkischer Kreis district craft association, presented InKraFT.

qualifikationdigital.de: Working in a car workshop is associated with physical exertion. Heavy vehicle parts have to be moved and overhead work is often required. How can people with disabilities get involved in this area?

Petrushkat: That is probably the most frequently asked question in connection with inclusion and working in a car workshop. It is particularly important here how narrowly the term "disability" is understood. The InKraFT team has dealt with the target group and the understanding of inclusion for a long time and intensively. It is difficult to imagine that a severely disabled person would be able to exercise the profession of automotive mechatronics engineer, and we cannot break the limits of physics either. However, by imparting specialist knowledge and using digital technologies - such as virtual reality, together with a powerful streaming service - we can push boundaries and thus expand the scope for design.

Our experience and analyzes clearly show that in normal day-to-day work, even minor limitations in cognitive comprehension, for example in impulse control or poor reading and spelling, lead to an apprenticeship being broken off or not even started. This is where InKraFT comes in with its learning management system, which is able to offer content tailored to the learning needs.

The software also guides you through the work process. Physical deficits, which are normally responsible for the fact that training cannot be carried out, are compensated in InKraFT through the use of VR technology, both in simulation and in live streaming. This enables people who have never entered a car workshop to learn at least some of theoretical knowledge and the profession of car mechatronics engineer and to share it with others via a live streaming environment.

Which tasks are ultimately possible for people with disabilities, around a car workshop?

On the one hand, working in the back office of a vehicle workshop or for the hotline of a vehicle manufacturer is conceivable here. InKraFT also addresses those journeymen and masters who are considered incapable of working and can therefore no longer work in their trade. InKraFT supports this with VR streaming technology, so that these people also continue to work in your trade and the knowledge that you have accumulated over the years is retained. There are many opportunities for people with disabilities in and around working in a car workshop.


"The didactic scenarios in InKraFT are based on the contents of the curriculum for the automotive mechatronics engineer."


How are the didactic scenarios in which the InKraFT users immerse themselves using VR developed?

The didactic scenarios in InKraFT are based on the content of the curriculum for the automotive mechatronics engineer. The course "GK4 / 15 Repair Technology 4 - Vehicle Repair" is currently being implemented as VR-capable learning content. In this very handcrafted course, the participants learn, among other things, how an engine is professionally dismantled, measured and repaired. Choosing the course GK4 / 15 represents a real challenge and opportunity. If it is possible to demonstrate the demanding manual activities of dismantling and assembling an engine, the following courses with significantly lower manual demands can also be implemented.

When creating the didactic scenarios in InKraFT, the team works closely with the trainers at the vocational training center of the Kreishandwerkerschaft Märkischer Kreis e.V. and the AWS Institute for digital products and processes. The processes for implementation in VR are carried out in the first step by an experienced master and accompanied with a camera. The AWS Institute uses this material as a basis for later implementation in the VR. As a result, 3D models are jointly created and the possible interactions in VR are identified. Extensive tests and feedback loops are then carried out on the content created.

InKraFT programmers constantly face physical challenges in order to be able to train practically in VR. As part of the regular meetings, they test what it feels like to dismantle an engine and what forces are at work. Here it is important never to lose sight of reality.

What role does cooperative learning play at InKraFT?

With its VR streaming technology, InKraFT offers the opportunity to work and learn in a cooperative manner regardless of location. This is realized through a 360 ° stream in the middle of a workshop or any learning location of the training. Various detail cameras are used that enable HD close-ups. As a result, our participants are no longer dependent on being on site at the educational facility, which is a decisive advantage for people with physical but also mental and emotional limitations.

The technology is used, among other things, for the cooperative accomplishment of tasks, so that people with different disabilities are able to solve tasks both in the workshop and in class as a team. It doesn't matter where the participants are. For example, a master with physical limitations can still instruct a trainee or journeyman with reduced cognitive performance. In this way, jobs are created and maintained and a contribution is made to active inclusion in the skilled trades.

Is InKraFT all about the simulation of learning content to impart knowledge?

The clear answer: no. Rather, it is an overarching concept with numerous components. On the one hand, the focus is on imparting knowledge as a central element; on the other hand, it is just as important to offer people with physical and mental disabilities a perspective in an exciting, varied job and to overcome local barriers.

So can real workshop work be accompanied remotely through the technology?

Yes, exactly, thanks to the 360 ​​° streaming technology used in InKraFT, we are able to look directly into the work process of a workshop or educational establishment and can accompany the work and learning processes live and interactively. And not only that! Our adaptive learning management system offers the possibility of adapting the content to be conveyed as precisely as possible and largely automatically to the respective learning situation and to the participants. Together with the learning videos on the YouTube channel "kfz4me.de" and the trainers from the vocational training center of the Märkischer Kreis district trade association, new methodological and didactic possibilities arise.


"The users are fascinated by this playful way of learning."


How do you have to imagine the link with content from "kfz4me.de"?

The videos of the YouTube channel "kfz4me.de" are used in InKraFT on the one hand in the adaptive learning management system to convey content and on the other hand in the VR environment itself as learning aids. In addition to their professionalism, the videos are characterized by compliance with strict accessibility regulations. The automated subtitles were exchanged for audio transcriptions and the contrast ratios were adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Part of the InKraFT project is to further develop the YouTube channel and the didactic scenarios behind kfz4me.de together with the associated partner Hönne Berufskolleg. For InKraFT, the focus here is on adapting the content to the needs of people with disabilities as well as on the further development of the design-oriented didactic concept in other educational programs and institutions.


This video gives a first impression of the virtual learning platform InKraFT from the perspective of a user. The link with the didactic scenarios of the YouTube channel "Kfz4me" is also shown. Video: © InKraFT

What feedback have you already received from users?

The tests so far show that VR technology, even if it is becoming more and more present, still has a "magic factor" with it. The users of the current Alpha VR environment are fascinated by this playful way of learning. In InKraFT, participants can rate and comment on their experience with our VR environment: "Very good, makes you want more" and "This makes learning easy by hand" are just two of the many positive comments.

All in all, one can say that the testers have reacted very well to InKraFT so far. Of course there is also criticism. We took this as an opportunity to discard the first version of the VR environment as too dark and "fake" and to go back to the drawing board in order to create a new environment that matches the immersion of a real workshop very well.


"Contents in the learning platform can be created and modified by trainers."


What phase is the project in?

In the InKraFT project, field testing is now on the agenda. The preliminary tests have been completed and we are preparing our premises and our software for testing in live operation. For this purpose, test subjects are currently being actively sought. In addition to the piloting, the creation of the learning content continues continuously, results from the testing can thus be directly reflected back. The three-year term of InKraFT ends in September 2020 and we are in good spirits that at the end of the day we were able to make a successful test phase and make a real contribution to active inclusion and digitization in the skilled trades.

How can you imagine a transfer to other trades and training providers?

The contents that were created in InKraFT for the course "GK4 / 15 Repair Technology 4 - Vehicle Repair" both in the adaptive learning platform and in the VR environment can be used immediately after completion with the finished didactic scenarios at other educational institutions. who offer inter-company training in the automotive mechatronics trade.

It can be adapted to other trades and training courses, but the VR technology and the environment must be individually adapted. Content in the learning platform can be created and modified by trainers. By developing a basic inclusion matrix and specific recommendations for a wealth of inclusion scenarios, the University of Siegen has laid the foundation for making every conceivable content inclusive. All in all, the transfer and passing on of our knowledge is our greatest future task following the InKraFT project.

Photo credit: private