The primary mission of the Virtual Institute for Satellite Integration Training (VISIT) is to accelerate the transfer of research results based on atmospheric remote sensing data into NWS operations. This transfer is accomplished through the education of NWS forecasters on the latest techniques to integrate remote sensing data, especially from satellite and radar. The education approach is based primarily on the use of distance education techniques (web-based audio/video modules and live teletraining) that rely on an expert being available at the local forecast offices (the Science Operations Officer (SOO) and a satellite/radar focal point).
Since geostationary and polar orbiting satellites provide earth and weather observations over the entire spatial spectrum, ranging from global to mesoscale to storm scale, the satellite perspective provides a useful framework into which other data can be integrated.
|Scharfenberg, Kevin||NWS / Forecast Decision Training Division Chief||Kevin.Scharfenberg@noaa.gov|
|Szoke, Ed||NOAA/NWS and CSU/CIRA/VISITfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Van Til, Ross||NOAA/NWS/FDTDemail@example.com|
The Virtual Institute for Satellite Integration Training (VISIT) distance learning program was originally created in 1998 with funding provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was created in response to training requirements outpacing available travel funds as well as increased internet bandwidth and reliability. In order to address specific training needs, the VISIT team developed a distance learning software package called VISITview. The software allows users to simultaneously view and manipulate the images, animation, graphics and text. The strength of the VISIT teletraining approach is its ability to bring the instructor directly to the forecast office. The VISIT program is administered by staff from the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), the National Weather Service (NWS) training division, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).
Just how does the teletraining process begin? It begins with the selection of a topic that is usually recommended by either NWS personnel or VISIT instructors. Once a topic is selected, VISIT instructors, along with external subject matter experts, develop an outline for the course. The model design used as the building blocks for most sessions is based on theoretical background knowledge of a particular topic followed and supported by case studies. The VISITview software package lends itself particularly well to this application by allowing the use of text windows, images (single or animated), and interactive graphics to be used together in a live conference setting. Once the first draft of a session is completed, a test run (beta test) of the lesson is presented to select NWS offices, subject matter experts, and other VISIT staff to refine the contents. Participants in this “trial run” provide formal reviewer comments that the authors are required to address (similar to the review process for refereed journal articles). Modifications to the session are then made, or justifications are provided should authors disagree with individual comments. Upon completion of the modifications, dates and times are selected and posted on the VISIT teletraining calendar for instruction and a formal announcement e-mail is sent to NWS offices.
NWS offices can signup for teletraining sessions via an e-mail sent to VISIT, a variety of teletraining sessions are offered each month. Setup instructions are sent out about a week before the session is scheduled to begin. The setup instructions contain download information for the file from one of the VISIT servers, the conference call information and a student guide to review before the training session. At the scheduled time of the session, all participating offices call in to the conference. The previously downloaded VISITview file is then initiated and run on the individual office’s PC. The VISITview software then automatically connects and synchronizes to the instructor’s PC over an internet connection, thereby allowing the instructor to control the session remotely. The controls include advancing of slides, annotations, animation controls, etc. (Fig. 1 and Fig. 3). Any actions done by the instructor are seen synchronously at every participating office (Fig. 2). During the teletraining session, interactivity is encouraged through the instructor’s questions and the often prodigious use of supporting case studies. The questions themselves are designed to generate thought-provoking discussion and practical reinforcement of the session’s principles for the student. The discussions may well lead to refinements and updates of the session material itself. At the conclusion of each teletraining session, an evaluation form is sent to the individual who signed up their respective office for the training (generally the Science Operations Officer) so that constructive criticism can lead to improvements of the session for future classes. The evaluation form also asks for the names of the students who participated so that a certificate of completion can be mailed to each student that fills out an evaluation form.
Through October 2010, over 90 session topics have been developed, 28 of which were developed at CIRA. More than 1500 VISIT teletraining sessions have been administered during that same time period, with over 23,000 teletraining participants. It has been calculated that nearly 850 individual students have participated in at least 5 or more sessions, which is equivalent to roughly 1 full day of classroom training. Thus, considerable travel expenses plus time out of the office have been saved. Preparation for the VISIT material takes more time than comparable classroom presentations, given the extensive peer-review process used for the teletraining. However, the cost benefit gained by teletraining more than outweighs the expenditure for classroom training. Another benefit of teletraining is the use of the asynchronous versions for students that cannot attend the live teletraining. The VISIT website (http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/training/visit/) contains stand-alone versions of most sessions, many of which are of the audio (recorded) variety, and some with embedded instructor notes that can be viewed using a web browser. The web/audio versions make it possible to view the material at any time.
VISIT teletraining applications have continued to expand as more NOAA offices turn to this approach as a cost-effective solution to the problem of increased training requirements coupled with shrinking training and travel budgets. Based upon the generally positive student feedback, VISIT teletraining has fulfilled the goal of providing cost effective distance learning to operational forecasters.
The second phase of satellite meteorology training (Satellite Integration Training) focuses on the following challenges:
The requirement for Satellite Integration Training stems from surveys of students at the COMET SatMet Residence Courses who questioned: “how do we utilize satellite data with radar data on AWIPS?” Specifically, the requirements are to:
Anthony Mostek, John Weaver, Dan Bikos, Dan Lindsey, Bard Zajac, Scott Bachmeier, Tom Whittaker, Brian Motta, Brad Grant, Jim LaDue and John Ferree. 2004: VISIT: Bringing Training to Weather Service Forecasters Using a New Distance-Learning Tool. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: Vol. 85, No. 6, pp. 823-829.
The level of difficulty for these Instructional Components is generally intended for entry level meteorologists (with less than 3 years of experience in operational forecasting/warning (Interns, new Journeyman Forecasters, etc.) Material presented is based on fundamental principals or concepts that are fairly well known and regularly applied in the NWS operational meteorological community. In addition, Basic Instructional Components can be training material that describes local office procedures or applications of non-meteorological forecasting techniques (for example, the Enhanced-V Session). Often this training is intended to be a prerequisite to successive, more difficult Instructional Components offered in the same Professional Competency Unit. Note: Even though this material is geared at an Introductory level, experienced forecasters might be advised to take this training for review or, for preparation for more advanced level training.
This type of training contains slightly more difficult concepts and is targeted for more experienced meteorologists. The pace of the training and difficulty of concepts presented require more advanced knowledge and skills in operational forecasting and warning. Examples used are often based on recent operational research and case studies that are more complex in nature. A good working knowledge of using the various integrated sensors in the forecast process are important to successfully complete these Instructional Components.
This type of training is devoted to highly advanced concepts and new techniques of using integrated sensors in the warning and forecast process. The pace and level of difficulty of material presented require well-rounded knowledge, ability, and experience in using the full range of meteorological sensors in the forecasting and warning process.