Keeping pace with changing learning profiles

Seafarers today need a blend of education tools to ensure continuous and appropriate development

By Manish Singh

Having been a seafarer and a ship manager for over 25 years, I believe that learning and skills development at sea and ashore are due for an overhaul. This belief led me to take the helm at the recently formed Ocean Technologies Group (OTG), which includes the market defining maritime learning businesses MTS, Seagull and Videotel.

Such an overhaul requires ubiquitous platforms, that can create a globally consistent and transportable learning standard. Throughout their career, seafarers may work in a variety of operating environments ranging from best- in-class operators and some that are purely focused on compliance.

The overhaul also needs strong collaboration between learning solutions providers such as OTG and onshore training providers, including the training establishments of ship owners and managers. This is vital to create seamless digital bridges between the brick and click environments in maritime learning. With only circa 10% of today’s training focus on e-learning, we expect a significant change in the blend from onshore to online training, backed by investment in more capable tools for desktops, tablets and mobile phones.

OTG works with around million active users and runs over 750,000 seafarer training sessions per month so the company is able to observe indicators that link learning activity to the operational environment. Since the onset of Covid-19 earlier this year, online training activity has risen by 175% on our online platform. I expect this trend to intensify further and we will drive for closer collaboration between ship owners, managers, training businesses, organisations like the IMO, flag and port State administrations, P&I clubs, underwriters, charterers and other stakeholders.

Manish Singh, Ocean Technologies Group

In designing the blend of learning tools for competence development throughout the career of seafarers, we factor in preferences of those serving today as well as future candidates. All learners are individuals and respond to different styles, mediums and pace of learning.

Some thrive in group learning discussions and videographic material is highly effective in stimulating communal learning. Some learners have low levels of educational attainment or their language skills are not advanced enough, thereby benefitting from lots of visual learning support. Others like to study alone at their own pace and respond better to gamified play-through scenarios and role-playing situations. We also see many learners seeking more advanced and challenging content to augment their learning over time.

Learning progression

Much emphasis in early development of maritime training had been on the delivery and imparting of knowledge. We are now also placing greater emphasis on giving the learner an immediate context to apply that knowledge. In practical terms, this means imparting a number of play-through scenarios, decision trees and situational simulation, and moving into virtual reality (VR) and the opportunity it affords for the learner to demonstrate skills and experience environments that would otherwise be difficult to simulate in the safety of a training session.

In the future, blended learning will see greater use of role-playing walk-through learning experiences, especially for the youngster coming to sea with greater expectations for engaging and immersive learning tools.

However, we also observe that crew profiles are getting older in certain positions, in management ranks in particular, as expected. In our use of VR or mobile role playing game pilots, we have not seen any cognitive disadvantage across age groups, but we do find that the younger users have a much stronger preference for gaming based content and it’s important that we keep everyone with us on the journey, so sometimes traditional media is still the best option.

We also know that our customers are looking for joined up solutions and are also blending maritime learning by interfacing our learning management platforms with ship management systems, e-navigation systems and other areas that go to the heart of decision making by those on-board and shore-based managers. We must all get used to a world in which lifelong learning is the norm and our employees are able to access the resources they need to re-tool and upskill at the point of need.
Ensuring that we can meet our organisational learning needs in the right blend of formats for the individuals in our team will be crucial in helping us to meet the challenges of 21st century shipping and maximise the opportunities that come our way.

Manish Singh is group chief executive officer at Ocean Technologies Group, a global learning and operational technology company. Find out more at