Nuclear knowledge creation and transfer in enriched learning environments

Francisco Ruiz

Need for Change?

 One of the principal characteristics of Tecnatom is the constant search for elements of improvement to be introduced in their training systems since its creation in 1957 and especially since the acquisition of the first training simulator in the 70’s. Both from the perspective of design, development and validation of media and training materials of different scope, and, above all, from the closest knowledge management (KM) point of view, which is the preparation and professionalism of its instructors.

 One of the challenges that a nuclear industry must overcome is the creation of a learning environment which combines the three fundamental components for KM: People, Processes and Technology [1].  Currently, new staff recruits in the nuclear power plants have been educated in a different learning environment from school to university [2].

 Technology, collaboration and generational character are transforming education. Research has shown that 25% of students success is related directly to the environment in which they are learning. Today’s educators and designers are creating more “learner centered” models that revolve around teamwork, problem solving and group discussion. Learning can happen anywhere, so every space must be flexible as well as provide students with access to knowledge and technology. This is due to the massive introduction of information technologies and methodologies that incorporate these techniques in the training activities. Nowadays, the way people learn is different from the time when the plants were built. Therefore, it is necessary to question the current learning environments and create new methods of learning.

Moreover, the integration of new training technologies reinforces the way knowledge is transferred within organizations. Therefore, it’s necessary to include different mechanisms and strategies of communication between the instructors, students and other program participants in these new learning methods. The effectiveness of KM increases through this approach.

 Considering these two aspects -creation and transfer-, Tecnatom is going to take on the challenge to transform the “Vintage” model of learning and accommodate it with the new processes of knowledge acquisition and construction that technology allows.

  Adaptation of the teaching-learning model

 The adaptation of the teaching-learning model is designed from the “student experience” approach.  This concept results in the creation of “enriched learning environments” aligned with a student-centered dynamic and collaborative teaching-learning.

 In the definition of a new model, it is necessary to establish and delimit the change. This is done through the identification of the weaknesses and strengths of the “Vintage” model and the formulation of different lines of actuation. This step includes a critical thinking evaluation to determine why a change is necessary, what are the changing needs, how these changes impact the efficiency of the learning results, what are the solutions available with the current “state-of-the-art” technology and who are the active subjects of the change.

 Tecnatom’s training processes are set under the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) methodology, which forms the basis of training programs. We use this methodology as a learning dimension in which the training programs are developed. In this dimension learning objectives establish the student competence and provides an anticipation mechanism of detecting future needs of the programs by means of continuous evaluation. A relevant aspect of this dimension is the enrichment of the learning experience through a feedback process between the different modules of a training program.

 Five main levels of the change process interact in this particular aspect: Learning contents, Channels, Roles of the participants, Knowledge banks and Collaborative workspaces.


 The redefinition of the instructor and students roles implies the transformation of the instructor from a lecturer to a facilitator of a dynamic learning. But, also the students’ position as a receptor of the learning contents has changed, as knowledge collaboration and acquisition activities become necessary.

 Learning contents and outcomes determine the way they are transferred from instructors and acquired by students. To stimulate the interest of students and the motivation of the instructor, additional content formats are designed. As formats change, the systematic structure when developing training material is renovated in accordance with channels and roles established.

 Technology transforms the “vintage” learning environments (classroom) and introduce new spaces ad training channels using virtual education. Besides, these channels stimulate the use of collaborative activities between instructors and students.  

 Collaborative workspaces and Knowledge banks come directly from the combination of the first three levels of the change. The objective of the Knowledge bank is to manage the know-how and experience that both instructors and students accumulate in their practice. The collaborative workspaces provide dynamic environments of socialization and discussion where the implicit knowledge is transformed in explicit knowledge through the knowledge transfer, case analysis, problems resolution, and updating of practices and experiences.

 Practical approach of the new model

 Once the levels of change have been established, Tecnatom evaluates the current methodologies and technologies that can support them. The result of this evaluation is the backbone of the model. During the evaluation phase, an outsider participant facilitates the disruptive thinking that the new model requires due to its innovative characteristics. The outsider participant is a recognized institution and a leader in the application of enriched learning environments.

 The key aspect of this new model is the methodology that implements the levels of change, more than the technology that supports the change. Some examples of these methodologies are:

 Flipped learning

  • Virtual learning environments and mobile-learning
  • Learning communities
  • Social learning
  • Spaced education
  • Learning analytics

 A practical approach is implemented on different pilot sessions by means of the use of these methodologies and associated technologies. During the development of the implementation plan it is necessary to keep in mind that there is no perfect method for the overall training program and depending on the characteristics and objectives of each part of the training, a different methodology maybe more suitable.

 One of the common problems identified during the transitions from a model to a new one is that the change requires new methods and technologies for which proper training is not offered or is imparted once the change has been made. This issue concerns especially a wide generational age range of employees who communicate and learn differently. For this reason, prior to the implementation phase, an appropriate training plan is devised to prevent this problem.

 The new model implies a paradigm change in the classroom learning methods of Tecnatom, so it is being implemented on a small scale. The results and practices derived from its application need to be evaluated to standardize and generalize its use in the training activities of Tecnatom.




  • [1] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, Knowledge Management for Nuclear Industry Operating Organizations, IAEA-TECDOC-1510, IAEA, Vienna (2016).
  • [2]   ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE, Enterprise Knowledge Management System for Nuclear Power Plants, EPRI Report, EPRI, Palo Alto (2005)


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