The training program was extensively revised in 1985 to incorporate an innovative instructional design process for watchkeeper training used in marine simulator-based courses at the Southampton Institute in England. The course was and continues to be offered to cadets in their senior year as final preparation for actual watches as third mates upon graduation. The course is given after training assignments aboard commercial ships. Separate departments oversee the watchkeeping training aboard the USMMA's training vessel and the simulator-based watchkeeping course curricula.

Specific objectives were established for each training course, and drill scenarios were carefully crafted to bring the cadet watch teams to the instructor-planned learning experience. The mariner instructors redefined their role as a mentors and, during the debriefings, as facilitators, to more effectively stimulate trainee intellectual analysis of the results. Each exercise was graded numerically, recorded, and maintained. The instructors reported that as training progressed, they observed a notable difference in the attitude and command (i.e., leadership) presence of the person in charge of the watch. For each task performance, the instructors reported a subjectively measurable increase in the level of confidence. On completion of the training, the instructors observed that professional maturity, attitude, and confidence were markedly improved.

The Simulator-Aided Watchkeeping Course

The simulator-aided watchkeeping course consisted of 10 preparatory classroom lecture sessions, 4 ungraded familiarization scenarios aboard a full-mission ship-bridge simulator at the Computer Aided Operations Research Facility (CAORF) in Kings Point, New York, followed by either 5 or 6 graded watchkeeping drills aboard the CAORF ship-bridge simulator. (The academic calendar and administration of the U.S Coast Guard's licensing examination for third mate preclude a sixth drill during courses held in the fourth quarter).

The classroom sessions consisted of case studies, familiarization with standard bridge team and procedure prescribed for use by the USMMA Nautical Sciences Division, advance preparation for the drill scenarios, and general briefings and technical discussions.

The simulated ship is the M/V Capella. She is a 40,000 deadweight ton tanker with a single propeller and rudder. Her bridge configurations are representative of this type of vessel. Navigation aids include radar, automatic radar plotting aids, Loran,and fathometer. Electronic charting and automated real-time, precision navigation systems are not available.

The familiarization scenarios consisted of daytime departure from the port of New York, a nighttime arrival at the port of New York and New Jersey, and both daytime and nighttime at-sea scenarios involving rules-of-the-road situations in unrestricted and restricted visibility. Rules-of-the-road scenarios are used because they are usually the first type of situations that third mates experience

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