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Training in pneumatics and hydraulics control systems

Suresh Munbodh
Industrial and Vocational Training Board

The learning of certain processes and concepts is becoming more difficult in the electromechanical field. It is not possible to visualise the activities taking place within the systems - pneumatics and hydraulic systems in industry use flow valves and tubes which are opaque. The workers maintaining those systems have only a low level of education and can only perform routine jobs. The use of proper technology like transparent flow valves, tubes, OHP, TV and video and other support materials make the learning much easier and more effective. At the end of the one week training program the participants can do the maintenance and repair of the hydraulic and pneumatic systems much quicker and can solve related problems.

The use of educational technology to enhance learning dates back to the days before Christ. Since then educational philosophers and psychologists have studied the process of learning. Philosophers like Piaget who observed the growth of a child into an adult, concluded that there are three main stages of development in the life of man - the sensorimotor, the pre-operational and the operational stage.

Thus the technology to be used to accelerate learning of a concept, principle, skill or attitude, vary with the age and maturity of the learner.

Today technology, be it at the work place or in the home, is changing very fast and hence the technology to be used to promote learning is to be constantly updated to the evolving situation. The usefulness of the information and skills acquired vary with time and the half life ie. the time taken for knowledge and skills to be only 50 per cent relevant has been measured for different types of knowledge and it is found that scholastic education has the highest half life, whilst electronic data processing the lowest as shown in Chart 1. Training which has a short half life, has to be properly planned and implemented to be effective.

Diagram: Chart 1

Chart 1: Development of knowledge (from Festo Didactic)

Long training programs, specially for workers, have been found to be less effective. Modern training programs are short and to the point, with the tendency nowadays to develop modular courses supported by appropriate technology promoting faster learning.

It has also been observed that people learn by listening, seeing, talking about and doing. The retention rate of the learning occurring varies with the method itself. It is noted that learning is most effective when achieved through "doing" and less effective through listening.

The percentage of what is seen and remembered and heard and remembered is given in Chart 2.

Diagram: Chart 2

Chart 2: People remember (from Festo Didactics)

Conscious of the above the Industrial and Vocational Training Board (IVTB) tailored their training program to: design, maintain and repair hydraulic and pneumatic systems. This is based on IVTB's previous experience with the setting of a training system based on modules and competencies; the ultimate objective being to provide effective and efficient learning.

The background

The modular approach to training has been adopted by IVTB since the very beginning. In 1990, a 6 week training course in Industrial Electricity and Electronics was run in collaboration with Telemecanique, France for technicians employed by industry. The first course was conducted by specialist trainers from Telemecanique, who used the equipment, the curriculum and the training materials developed by their own firm. Subsequently, the course is being run with great success by Mauritian Trainers. The course has proved to be so popular and effective that it is being run for the fifteen times.

Based on the above experience several modular training courses in automechanics electricity and building construction have been organised. The last to be run is the one on "Pneumatics and Hydraulics". This course has been designed, developed and implemented by Festo Didactics (Edwards, 1994) which strongly believes in providing quality training in the shortest possible time. It was identified by a specialist after meeting those responsible for industries using pneumatics and hydraulics. All those responsible for the maintenance and repair of equipment using pneumatics and hydraulics looked forward to the running of the course. Formerly no such training was available and the workers learnt by "sitting by Nelly". The change taking place in the "automation" sector makes such learning very difficult as the industrial equipment used does not allow the learning of the different concepts and processes.

The objectives of the course

Automation technology is very young and can only develop and spread with the availability of qualified specialists for tasks in manufacturing and service. Hydraulics and Pneumatics are the foundation blocks for automation and subsequently for robotics. The course are aimed at providing the learner with the skills and abilities required for the effective and correct installation, maintenance, troubleshooting and repairing of hydraulics and basic pneumatic systems in plants, machinery and related equipment.

The target group

The 'Unit' has been designed to be complete in itself and directed to the needs of the following persons using pneumatics and hydraulics:

The technology used

It goes without saying that the efficient and effectiveness of learning very much depends on the training materials and other aids used. This training program was designed and developed by specialists with an intensive knowledge of the principles of adult learning. Extensive use of the following learning aids is made: The trainees are also provided with: Nothing is left to chance to ensure the efficiency of the learning. Reading materials and references are provided before hand to the trainees.

The methodology used

As pointed out above learning is most effective when it is done through doing. Thus the maximum of hands on experience is ensured with the least of free talk.

A good training environment with proper climate control is provided. Maximum interaction and participation is encouraged amongst the participants and trainers. The progress of the trainees is closely monitored using systematically designed competency testing exercises and coursework assignments.

Right from the first day of the course, participants are provided with the opportunity of acquiring hands on experience on the simulation panels backed by demonstration sessions and video shows covering all aspects of the training program.

The participants perform and complete 12 exercises which are closely monitored by the trainers. Regular assessments are carried out based on established criteria to ascertain the acquisition of the competencies to the desirable - acceptable standard by each participant.

The variety of instructional media and technology used add spice to the learning situation. The provision of lunch and tea breaks during the course encourages better cohesion and synergy among the participants.

Time allocated to the use of the different technologies

The methodology coupled with the technology used give the following time allocation for the different media. The module is covered over a 30 hour week as shown in the table below.

No of hours by day
Media and activities 12345Total%

Free talk
White board
TV and video
Overhead projector
Transparent models
Simulation panel


The table shows the trainees spend 45 per cent of their time working on the simulation panels, acquiring hands on experience. An analysis of the response of 60 trainees to the usefulness of the technology used showed that all of them felt the learning taking place would not have been as much without the different media used specially the transparent flow valves and connecting tubes. Some of the trainees believe that the learning would have been very little without the supporting technology.


Based on the results of the learning taking place using the technology mentioned above, it can only be confirmed that good quality support material with the use of the appropriate technology renders learning more effective and efficient.

The use of transparent valves enhanced learning further as it makes easier the comprehension of the functionalities of the system. This training program places more emphasis on the learning taking place rather than on the teaching. Such an approach is time and money saving.


Acknowledgment is made of the contribution of Mr. G. Beeharry-Panray, and Miss Yoozma Bhugel in the presentation of the text, both Training Officers at the IVTB.


Edwards, D. (1993). Training Guide for Automation in Mauritius. Festo Didactics.

Education and Training Technology International, 31(2), May 1994.

Author: Suresh Munbodh, Director, Industrial and Vocational Training Board (IVTB), Mauritius

Please cite as: Munbodh, S. (1994). Training in pneumatics and hydraulics control systems. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 165-167. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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