Interview Alstom : Their transition to Immersive Learning with Uptale

You hear more and more about Immersive Learning and Virtual Reality training and you are curious to exchange with those who have already stepped through?

Discover it during a professional breakfast on Friday 28 February at STATION F, advice and feedback from Alstom and PSA: why did they choose Immersive Learning to enrich their training path and how did they deploy it in France and abroad?

In anticipation of these exchanges, here is the testimony of Franck Gaillard, Global Learning Director at Alstom.

As the Global Learning Director of the Alstom Group, Franck Gaillard is in charge of defining the methods, tools, and processes used for training within the HR learning function. He coordinates the activities of around 100 HR learning managers in 60 countries.

Franck is also the Director of Alstom University, a corporate academy which defines the training paths within the job functions.

What were you doing in training before Immersive Learning and why did you choose Uptale and Virtual Reality?

Franck: “For the past three years, I have been in charge of Alstom University and the Learning function of the group. Previously, the training activity was mainly focused on Classroom Training. Following the Group’s Energy sector takeover, it was necessary to recreate within the new Alstom (which has become the pure player in transport sector), a corporate university structure and a learning function at the state of art regarding new tools in terms of HR learning systems. At that point, choices were made, including technological choices for the distribution of Digital Learning.

Over the last 3 years, we have evolved from a deployment in 23 countries to over 60 countries and from 2 300 people trained per year to over 25 000 in 2018/2019. So we had to be way more agile and embrace a much larger volume of activity (10 times bigger). It required a cultural change, a change of methods, and for that, we had a strategy: to easily access the group’s knowledge and enable people to create content that could be easily shared.

We have chosen Digital Learning tools that are purely ATAWADAC (Any Time, Any Where, Any Device, Any Content). And in the “Any Content” part we were already doing video, e-learning, serious games… a whole bunch of tools, sometimes created internally and sometimes bought on the market, but what we lacked was Virtual Reality.

How could we spread Virtual Reality, which until now required considerable technological resources? And that’s how we discovered Uptale and found the way to answer all these questions: a large-scale distribution, on any device (VR headsets, computers, smartphones) of Virtual Reality content that has been simply created by our experts. The solution was completely aligned with our strategy.

Moreover, the key point is the relevance of this solution from a company’s perspective that needs to internationalize and export its knowledge all over the world. This is a major issue for Alstom.”

Why do you think it is interesting to use Virtual Reality for training?

Franck:Once we have answered the questions of international distribution, of internal training creation, once we have overcome all these constraints, what makes Virtual Reality important for training? It’s above all the impact in terms of learning, in a physiological sense, it’s the retention of information that Virtual Reality brings and that e-learning doesn’t.

This strong retention is inherent to several conditions specific to Virtual Reality:

The context: to be effective in the recalling of things we have learned or in the execution of tasks/technical gestures we have been taught, the learning context is pivotal. It has been shown that the closer the learning context is to the real world, the more likely the person will recall what they have learned. What a better way to do this than to immerse people in a Virtual Reality that is an almost exact copy of the situation they will have to work on?

The emotion: with Virtual Reality, we add something that we would not have in classical training, it is emotion. We have a very concrete example of this with our risk prevention (EHS) experience in Virtual Reality: when the person is about to cross the railways without respecting the safety instructions, the train arrives and you feel like you’re being crushed over, it’s impressive! And that’s what makes us remember it for a long time. The day you find yourself in the same situation, you know that you shouldn’t cross the railways and look for the gateway.


The action: so context is an essential element, emotion too, and then comes the matter of action. It means that I can act, I am not passive in front of a screen or a video. I make actions, gestures… of course, it all depends on the depth and complexity of these actions. But the simple fact of making the decision or looking in the direction is to be at the origin of what happens. Being the actor of one’s training allows us to go beyond simple immersion. There is a better anchoring of what is happening.”

“And we don’t have that with classic e-learning or video, but with Immersion, we are completely “in”, we have an effect of context, emotion, action.”

You have mainly deployed VR modules for security or hard skills, are you interested in exploring new thematics?

Franck:Yes absolutely, these are areas that still need to be explored and developed for our group. And I can even imagine a module for “well-being“. I would like to create a kind of “mindfulness“, to place people in a relaxing context, in a Japanese garden for example, to work on relaxation, to be Zen”

“For the moment, what I master best and what I am appropriating best is indeed awareness or safety register. From now on, we can provide the hard skills aspect with more technical modules, with the integration of 3D models.”

“Then there is another aspect, which is the on-site virtual visit. Even before the arrival of new comers on the site, they can discover it in advance thanks to Virtual Reality. And it’s extraordinary for people to be able to project themselves because when they arrive they are not lost, they know where to go.

Read PSA’s interview 

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