As we started 2020, the pandemic was just getting a grip on the world and it seemed as though everything was coming to a standstill. Most were confused with what the future looked like, and some were not even thinking about the future. What many people did know was that we were in a crisis in many ways.
That crisis has led to many companies closing their doors temporarily and some closing their doors permanently, leaving employees, investors and customers without products or services. As we discuss in this brief article concerning training, we will take a look at what’s happening at the current time, and what was done over the last year to maintain employee and responder competencies while attempting to meet required training regulations or policies that may be in place at your department or facility.
We all know training comes in many different forms, from instructor-led training, eLearning or computer-based training, hands-on training, coaching, or mentoring, lectures and group discussion and activities, case studies or other required reading. That being said, we’ve seen a major decline in traditional face-to-face learning over the last year. As we slowly come out of the pandemic, many folks are reluctant to schedule or conduct their regulatory training, creating additional strains on their response planning and personnel competencies. This has many people scratching their heads wondering what the next steps are and how we get back to training and evaluating our personnel. As of this writing, many countries are still witnessing unsettled trends in reported test positivity. There are climbing trends in some areas while others are seeing a significant decline due to vaccinations and continued social distancing. For example, the USA is getting to the point where many states are lessening their guidelines and restrictions, while other countries are holding steady due to continued test positivity. India, as another example, is witnessing drastic increases creating more fear and deepening the restrictions for contact and travel.
As we have seen over the last few months, many private and public sectors are getting back to training, but in more of a hybrid method, lessening the amount of potential contact with each other and their instructors. We are seeing web-based training being the new norm as we move forward. Instructors are finding themselves having to sit in front of their computer using video-conferencing platforms to instruct individuals either at home or in their offices, attempting to learn remotely. This in itself creates strain as both parties are not able to freely move around, are not able to have the group discussion as the instructor may be accustomed to, or have a hard time finding the self-control to sit and listen to either a pre-recorded lecture or live instruction. And of course, internet connectivity issues are just another stressor to add to the mix. All of this comes with a price and a learning curve to say the least. What we once thought was the way of learning could forever be changed. How is this affecting our core competencies and how does this affect beginners in our business?
As we move forward in this discussion, we want to reinforce with you that this editorial is simply an opinion of the writer and not a proven or studied guide. Having been directly affected by this pandemic has led many agencies to come up with inventive methods of communicating the required learning whether it be annual requirements, certification, or recertification. Our experience has seen a decline with in-person learning, which we can attest to, having been in this business for more than 25 years. Emergency Response organizations, just to name one, which we have a close relationship with, will most likely feel the effects of this pandemic for many years to come. For example, a class that may have required 70–75% to be hands-on where the 20–25% was classroom instructor-led training was non-existent for much of 2020. Agencies were finding themselves completely shut down to training. Many local, state and federal training centres were empty, leaving thousands of people without work and eager students with no means to obtain the required training to fulfil minimum requirements as part of their ordinary job requirements. New hires and first-time students were finding themselves in smaller class sizes, wearing masks and social distancing, creating a lack of proper education. In fact, my son, a student at an exceptionally large university in the US, did not have a single in-person class this entire school year of 2020–21. This presented several issues which I can address first-hand.
As a student in university, in-person lectures and hands-on learning have been proven to be received much better than e-learning via video conferencing. So many students find it challenging with the e-learning concept, because the instructor or teacher on the other side of the computer screen is not able to read the body language of the receiver to tell whether the message is being received and the student is comprehending the material. When it comes time to be tested on the retention of the material, we are seeing more and more of the students are finding it difficult to remember the material and scores are reflected as well. In our emergency response venue, would this be, okay? Would you be happy if your newly trained emergency responders were just so-so during the class and barely passed the test? I can assure you this would not make their peers happy, nor would it make the customer or requestor for assistance happy. By the way, when we say customer, we must remember that an emergency response is to a customer in need, no matter what the situation is. Customer Service is what we aim to be good at. If our team is not on the same page, the outcome may not always be in our favour. When we’re in a life-or-death situation, we need to remember, we train because failure is not an option.
Having been an educator for many years in the fire service, we have faced many levels of learning abilities in our audiences. As an instructor, you need to have the ability to adapt with the class and provide every receiver the opportunity to get a clear message and ensure they are comprehending what is being presented. This can become challenging for even the best providers and presenters. How your message is received can drastically reduce or increase the end result. This end result is what everyone hopes is positive and when we evaluate the receiver’s ability to take away the message, it gives us a clear example of the instructor’s abilities and the receiver’s abilities to retain the knowledge presented. Evaluation is often looked at from four different levels also known as the ‘Kirkpatrick levels’ listed below. Take note, the farther down the list, the more valid the evaluation is of the training.
- Reaction – What does the learner feel about the training?
- Learning – What facts, knowledge, etc., did the learner gain?
- Behaviours – What skills did the learner develop, that is, what new information is the learner using on the job?
- Results or effectiveness – What results occurred, that is, did the learner apply the new skills to the necessary tasks in the organization and, if so, what results were achieved?
In summary, training during and after this pandemic has put strains on everyone, everywhere. The fact of the matter is, we need to get back to training just as we know it. Human nature learning has brought us to where we were prior to the pandemic, so we need to get back to what we know and do best. Our culture and learning methods have not changed and we cannot allow this pandemic to change our course as well. It is a small hiccup for mankind, we will get through it one way or another and will be stronger than ever. We must get back to in-person learning as quickly as possible to prevent problems and allow us to do our jobs safely and effectively while reducing the risks and prevent injuries and fatalities, improve compliance with laws and regulations, engage the workers, increase productivity, and enhance overall business and department operations.
From a notable man who created the very first volunteer fire department in the USA, a quote that we should all live by: ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ – Benjamin Franklin
For more information, go to www.trainingspecs.com