LANSING, Mich. — Dean Transportation has begun using virtual reality technology to supplement its training curriculum for drivers and attendants.
Using pre-filmed 360-degree video of simulated common scenarios and Samsung Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets, the virtual reality training covers pre-trip inspection, student behavior management, wheelchairs, and evacuation procedures.
The training was designed to expose drivers and attendants to the school bus environment before they even step aboard a bus, said Patrick Dean, vice president of business development at Dean Transportation. It will be particularly useful for new hires and veteran staff members who need a refresher on the covered topics, he added.
The idea to integrate the technology came from Dean Transportation staff members, who also purchased the necessary hardware and software from a local electronics store and scripted and filmed different situations.
“We acted out some real-world scenarios where students may not be following directions or have some behavioral concerns on a bus, so we can immerse the driver in loud noises, lots of sensations, and talk about how to respond to the students’ behavior in an appropriate way,” Dean explained.
Implemented in April, the training now supplements a six-hour training program from the Crisis Prevention Institute on behavior management that is required for all Dean Transportation drivers and attendants.
In the brief time that the contractor has included the technology in its training, it has been well-received by drivers and attendants, Dean added. In addition to providing a more “real-world experience” to many of the situations discussed in the classroom, it also spurs discussion about situations they have encountered on the bus.
“You can have more collaboration and open dialogue about things that happen on board school buses and how to respond appropriately,” Dean said.
In the near future, Dean Transportation is planning to adapt the technology to be available through Samsung devices so that staff members can operate it through an app and go through some of the training while off-site.
Watch a video on the training here.