The need for training and education does not require proof of relevance. Research shows that various training methods (e.g. traditional class room based training, online training, practice training) have their respective knowledge retention effectiveness. The closer to practical training, the more effective the knowledge transfer will become. The image below shows the various levels of knowledge retention, according to Edgar Dale.

Especially when it comes to maintaining large assets and costly equipment, training skills is of utmost importance!


The Master-Apprentice training principle is based on the experience of the master, transferring knowledge to the apprentice in real practice. According to the Cone of Learning the knowledge retention goes up to 90% which makes this method extremely efficient.

But there is a downside to this training method. It is the most expensive since it requires one-on-one training between the master (teacher) and the apprentice (trainee). Therefore, this training method is most often used in areas where practical skills are required. Because of the above the masters’ knowledge is most likely spread over multiple simultaneous trainees limiting the one-on-one knowledge transfer by the amount of simultaneous trainees.

Limitations of practical training

The human element of the Master-Apprentice training principle is only one of various limitations that this efficient knowledge transfer method faces. Also (personal) safety, availability of training equipment, planning, (recurring) cost are limitations that come with training in practice.

(Personal) safety

Training equipment and assets can be large in size or heavy in weight. Also equipment might be confined, holding hazardous energy e.g. toxic substances, electric energy, heat, extreme cold or pressure or on height or depth. Therefore, (personal) safety might be an issue to create a safe training environment in real life.

Availability of training equipment

Not only safety but also availability of an asset can be a major challenge for real practical training. The asset might be on a large distance from the trainee or always in use because of production. In area’s that run 24/7 assets and equipment cannot be used for training, so (limited) substitutes might be in use.


Equipment and “master” knowledge is required for effective practical training. This requires planning, and therefore the training is limited to that. Research shows that the effectiveness of knowledge transfer through repetition is much higher than through a single (planned) training session.

(Recurring) cost

Training is often seen as a cost to the organization, where in fact it should be a long term investment. Cost for training can be distributed over various categories. First, there is the cost of personal unavailability. The trainee will not be available for production which is a cost to the organization. Secondly, there is the cost of the training asset. Whether this is the unavailability of an asset for training, or a separate training device. Thirdly, there is the cost of failure. Efficient training enables the trainee to (safely) make mistakes). Mistakes might turn into a cost since making mistakes might damage equipment or the training arena and require repair or maintenance.

Overcoming training challenges

Despite the training challenges in real practical environments, skill training and rehearsal in practice is of utmost importance for effective knowledge transfer.

But how to overcome the challenges and issues? The answer is virtual simulations!

The world of simulation and gaming is booming and the balance between price and quality is getting better with every innovation in technology. Referring to the Cone of Learning the effectiveness of virtual simulations is equal to skill training in real life. Please note that a virtual simulation does not replace real life training, but can create a safe, realistic and immersive training environment for use as pre-practice training. Simulations raises the understanding of safety, processes and procedures related to the actual asset. Therefore, the level of entry into the practical training will be much higher enabling a better understanding and awareness in the physical training environment. The scarce availability of the physical training environment will be more effective for training and the effectiveness of the knowledge transfer will be higher in level of understanding and quality of knowledge. Virtual simulations also enables the trainee to learn more in less time since the virtual environment is more efficient that the real environment. Elements that are hard to learn in real practice can easily be integrated into the virtual world e.g. life threatening situations, danger, time pressure and the effect of making mistakes.

Virtual simulations devices contain three important levels of knowledge:

  1. 3-dimensional virtual replication of the real world training environment (3D model)
  2. The interaction with the 3D model process resembling the real world
  3. The learning process and training scenario(s)