6 Ways Your Public Safety Agency Can Benefit From Online Learning

by | May 6, 2020

The term “online learning” might conjure up an image of college courses or working adults trying to complete requirements for a certification program. These are tried-and-true uses of the medium, to be sure—but online learning holds far greater potential.

This is especially true for public safety agencies, which face myriad training requirements and tight budgets. The need to staff 24/7 makes it difficult to schedule in-person training that will reach all employees. And let’s not forget the challenge of creating training that’s effective for the full range of experience on your staff, from probie to veteran.

Online learning management systems help public safety agencies address these training challenges. They are highly flexible, offer a wide variety of content and can streamline processes for the entire department.

Here are six ways online learning can benefit your public safety agency.

#1: Reduce Training Costs
Training budgets are always tight. Online learning is relatively inexpensive compared to traditional methods of training that involve hiring an outside trainer or sending personnel off-site.

For example, annual training updates, such as a bloodborne pathogen refreshers, almost always require hiring an outside trainer or assigning an employee to deliver the training throughout the organization. Either route is time- and budget-consuming. Loaded into the online training system, a bloodborne pathogens course can be used for several annual training cycles and completed by personnel without bringing them to a classroom or an instructor to them.

Another instance where online learning can reduce costs is by reducing travel expenses for personnel, which is both expensive and inconvenient. This is especially true in public safety, where travel to a conference or training session incurs not just travel costs but also overtime because someone must backfill the position. After all, public safety agencies can’t just shut the doors and say all personnel are in training for the day!

#2: Access Courses with Ease and Flexibility
Online learning provides access to training anytime, anywhere, and from any mobile device. With 24/7 accessibility, personnel can access the online training system to complete training while on shift, during downtime or even during their off time if allowed by their department. Off-duty training is especially well-suited for part-time personnel, volunteers or personnel who work at more than one department.

Additionally, unlike in-person training, online learning opens the door to microlearning. Training doesn’t need to happen in only 1-hour, 4-hour or 8-hour increments. Fifteen minutes during briefings might be enough time to quickly provide updates on a policy revision or to view a short video. For example, the Polk County (FL) Sheriff’s Office has had success integrating online learning into their roll call training.

The bottom line: Online learning is flexible and can occur in small sessions that can be paused or restarted over multiple sittings.

With an online learning system, credentials are less likely to expire, and compliance requirements are more easily adhered to.

#3: Provide the Learning Opportunities Millennials Expect
According to Pew Research, millennials are the largest cohort in the U.S. labor force. If your department’s ratio of young personnel to veteran personnel hasn’t shifted yet, it soon will. This technologically savvy generation places a lot of significance on continued education.

For instance, millennials look for the opportunity to learn and grow within their profession, setting the expectation for their employers to provide these opportunities. With online learning, educational opportunities are readily available, proving to be an excellent tool for recruitment and retention.

Millennials are considered the most tech-savvy of the current generations in the workplace. With an online learning system, departments can appeal to millennials through technology that provides a rich online media experience addressing training needs and compliance requirements.

#4: Improve Tracking of Training
Tracking training hours and applying them toward annual requirements can be a challenge. The right online learning management system can make it easy for departments to meet training mandates by tracking every activity completed for credit, even those completed outside the learning platform. Personnel can earn and document training hours for:

  • Attending shift briefings
  • Completing pre-course work before a hands-on training event
  • Documenting participation in an interagency training exercise drill

 Training administrators can run on-demand reports or use a visual analytics dashboard that includes course and policy status, as well as set up automated notifications for both personnel and administrators to track progress and status.

When the Oak Park Fire Department started utilizing online learning and tracking their training efficiently, they noticed a substantial increase in operations training time.

#5: Increase Accountability
As a leader in your industry, it’s your responsibility to give your personnel the ability to succeed, which means holding them accountable. Online platforms drive accountability by allowing administrators to assign policy-related courses, set due dates for completion and quickly view the activity status of the course assignments. There’s no scrambling as recertification and compliance dates approach.

Some online learning platforms provide functionality beyond the courses themselves, allowing administrators to issue updates for general orders or standard operating procedures, then track personnel acknowledgement, following industry best practices for proper documentation and compliance management.

With an online learning system, credentials are less likely to expire, and compliance requirements are more easily adhered to.

#6: Enhance Safety
As department leaders know, training lays the foundation for a career in public safety. Continuing education beyond minimum requirements—addressing a wide breadth of issues—is imperative for overall effectiveness, increasing on-the-job safety and reducing department liability.

Finding an online solution provides your personnel access to critical training topics, as well as issues more specifically related to your community, empowering your department to better protect the community. For instance, if the opioid epidemic is currently plaguing your jurisdiction, online learning tools can provide your department with strategies and tactics for effective response.

Training in public safety will always require a substantial hands-on component. Online learning will never replace in-person training, but it can augment such efforts, saving your agency time and money and ensuring that when you do provide hands-on training, you’re maximizing the time and getting the most out of every training dollar.

Looking for online learning for your public safety agency? Check out Lexipol’s online learning academies:

PoliceOne Academy
FireRescue1 Academy
EMS1 Academy
CorrectionsOne Academy

Lexipol provides public safety and local government with solutions that combine the impact of information with the power of technology. We serve more than 2 million first responders and local government officials with policies, training, wellness resources, grant assistance, and news and analysis.

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