Progress Report, 14 December 2017


The final goal of this project is the creation of a Virtual Reality (VR) lesson in Damage Assessment for electric utility workers, who are called upon to function as assessors in major system emergencies. This is a vital role for which proper training is critical (New York Public Service Commission), and in which performance has historically been inadequate. (Kullmann, 2013)

In order to maximize learner engagement (O’Connor, 2014; Hsu 2013) and provide just-in-time training (especially refresher training) given the short time available between warnings of storms or other disasters, and the actual need for damage assessment, the decision was made to use immersive virtual reality in an automated, fully-asynchronous setting for the final training.

Given resource and time limitations, this semester will be devoted to creating a pilot version of the lesson, which will use “off the shelf” VR software and 3D models and will be instructor-led (facilitated) rather than asynchronous and self-paced. Reasons of cost and rapid development capabilities led to the selection of OpenSimulator as the technology to be used in piloting.

If the pilot is successful, or in any case after incorporating the lessons of the pilot process, the final production version would use different technology (or potentially extensive scripting of the OpenSimulator environment).

The lesson will be scenario-based, with a “blue sky” (industry term for undamaged) area and a “black sky” (storm damaged) version of the same area. Students will be directed to virtually travel the black sky area and complete real-world damage assessment tasks such as writing reports on the damage and delivering them. During piloting, their performance will be assessed by facilitators using rubrics.

Performance of the lesson itself will be assessed using a combination of student improvement (before-and-after challenges), along with questionnaires to determine student reactions. The success of the lesson will be determined by the utilities, after its eventual rollout, when they determine whether their assessors are performing their tasks with the required proficiency.


Freeman, L. A.; Stano, G. J.; and Gordon, M. E. (2010). Best Practices for Storm Response on U.S. Distribution Systems. Proc. 2010 DistribuTech, Mar. 23, 2010.

Hsu EB, Li Y, Bayram JD, Levinson D, Yang S, Monahan C. State of Virtual Reality Based Disaster Preparedness and Response Training. PLOS Currents Disasters. 2013 Apr 24 . Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.dis.1ea2b2e71237d5337fa53982a38b2aff.

Kullmann, J. (2013). Survey: damage assessment key to effective outage restoration. Electric Light & Power, (1). 51.

O’Connor, E., McDonald, F., & Ruggiero, M. (2014). Scaffolding Complex Learning: Integrating 21st Century Thinking, Emerging Technologies, and Dynamic Design and Assessment to Expand Learning and Communication Opportunities. Journal Of Educational Technology Systems, 43(2), 199-226.