Topics: Learning Excellence
The very nature of human exploration, whether it be on earth or in space, brings with it both inherent risk and reward. NASA has been in the business of space exploration for over 50 years and has experienced three significant mission failures that resulted in human fatalities. In addition to the loss of life, NASA and the United States have experienced robotic spacecraft mission failures that have resulted in the loss of financial resources and exploration assets. Groups investigating these mishaps determined that the foundations of NASA’s safety efforts required more structure, educational formalization and process improvement.
There were several daunting challenges to creating unified, consistent safety training at NASA:
In response to these challenges, the NASA Safety Center was established in 2006 and charged with building from scratch the organizational capability to develop safety and mission assurance professionals, trained in multiple disciplines. By the time the Space Shuttle was returning to flight, the NASA Safety Center was in the process of designing a corporate safety university. By mid-2008, that organization was fully established; it knew what industry and academia were doing, what kind of learning environment it needed to create, and it had a vision of a NASA corporate university. This vision became a reality in the fall of 2009 with the launch of STEP (NASA’s Safety and Mission Assurance Technical Excellence Program).
STEP is a comprehensive, career-oriented, professional development program that covers six engineering (rocket science safety) disciplines: System Safety, Quality Engineering, Reliability and Maintainability, Software Assurance, Operational Safety, and Aviation Safety. The curriculum was developed through extensive consultation throughout NASA that resulted in the creation of competency models and performance criteria. Early on, it was decided that the STEP program would be delivered as a voluntary online experience, using both web-based courses and video captured classroom instruction. Video captured courses are converted to online learning, so that considering both formats, nearly 1000 hours of technical discipline training are currently available online, on-demand, 24/7.
STEP takes new Safety and Mission Assurance professionals from new-hire status to subject matter expert in the first ten years of their career. In its first operational quarter, STEP transformed the way NASA Safety learns – tallying a 4400% increase in the number of courses taken – from 1000 hours of safety learning per quarter to 6600 hours per quarter as a direct result of implementing 30 one-hour, web-based courses. Virtually overnight, STEP became a household name in NASA Safety and it is quickly becoming one of NASA’s crown training jewels.
This paper addresses Program Design and Development, a Dimension within the Execute Quadrant of the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Corporate Learning. Members of CorpU can read more detail about this effort below.
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