Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Nov. 27, 2019. It has been updated and reposted.
When COVID-19 hit, many public safety agencies embraced online training – it was in many cases the only way to ensure personnel continued to build and refresh skills. As a result, online course completions skyrocketed, and even credentialing bodies such as the National Registry, which accredits EMS education, expanded online learning eligibility.
Now that the pandemic has eased and in-person training is back, public safety training administrators may be facing personnel resistance to online learning. Of course everyone wants to get back in the field or into the classroom, but reverting to your agency’s old methods of training could be shortsighted. While in-person training is an absolutely necessity in public safety, online training is an important way to maximize your training budget, get the most out of in-person events, and maintain accountability around your training program.
Following are four proven tips to help you build personnel buy-in for your agency’s online learning management system.
1) Don’t separate online learning from other methods of training
When personnel only access your learning management system once or twice a year to complete required online courses, it can create the impression that the system isn’t truly integrated into your training. But today’s public safety learning management systems are powerful tools that go far beyond completing a couple of online courses each year.
Consider using online learning in a “microlearning” format, such as at roll call, the kitchen table or the daily briefing. You can play a 5-minute video through the learning management system and follow it up with discussion. Ideally, your learning management system allows you to track such training and over time, add it up to count for training hours.
Another approach is to schedule and track external (in-person) training via your learning management system. FireRescue1 Academy’s Event Management feature, for example, allows you to track face-to-face instruction , including managing attendee rosters and requiring pre-course work. Not only does this streamline data capture around your in-person training, but it will reinforce to your personnel that online training is not something separate from the rest of training, but rather your learning management system is a tool for managing all types of learning.
Instructional design has progressed rapidly as a discipline in the last decade, and today’s online training can be immersive, engaging and interactive.
2) Don’t settle for mediocre content
One of the main reasons employees resist online learning is that a lot of course content is formulaic and boring. But instructional design has progressed rapidly as a discipline in the last decade, and today’s online training can be immersive, engaging and interactive. Check out PoliceOne Academy’s Focal Point courses for an example.
If your the course library provided with your learning management system doesn’t offer a lot of exciting content, consider creating your own. Public safety and local government personnel respond even better to training content unique to their jurisdiction or agency. With a robust LMS, trainers can design curricula and incorporate video of scenarios captured at recognizable places in their community, providing a more realistic training experience.
For example, if an agency is going to present training to police officers on how to self-apply a tourniquet with the non-dominant hand, the trainer could require that a video he or she previously recorded on the topic be viewed online before the hands-on practice and competency assessment session. Recording the video at a location well-known to the officers increases the value of the segment.
When the officers arrive at training for the hands-on assessment, the video portion of the instruction has already been completed, and the learners can immediately get to work practicing that skill. In addition to saving time, this practice encourages the use of the LMS platform and enhances the end user’s experience.
3) Assign courses and hold personnel accountable
Pre-determine specific assignments for the quarter or year and use automated reminders that prompt end-users about deadlines and training requirements. Rather than allowing personnel to log on and complete assignments when they have time, deadlines for assigned courses increase the probability personnel will complete the task on time.
Start by assigning courses most likely to engage users with the training system and make a positive first impression. Annual mandatory courses like bloodborne pathogens or slip-and-fall prevention are better suited for when personnel are more familiar with the training system and better understand its purpose. Instead, select videos or courses on hot topics and new challenges facing your personnel.
4) Have patience!
Just like any other change in policies and procedures, there will be individuals who enthusiastically embrace the new way of doing things and those who resist change. In the workplace, this is especially true of technology. Recognize that personnel have varying skill levels and then meet employees where they are. Provide additional training and development tools that focus on this group. The more support they have, the more comfortable they will feel with learning the new system.
An online learning management system can help make any local government or public safety department’s training program more effective and efficient. The key to successful embrace of online learning across your agency lies in integrating the platform into your training program, using it to provide different types of training (not just one-hour courses completed alone) and ensuring you’re delivering high-quality online content.
Looking for online learning for your public safety agency? Check out Lexipol’s online learning academies: