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Feb 5, 2018

Online safety training has come a LONG way from what it was even 5 years ago. Technology like mobile devices and apps has made digesting information easier and more interactive.

So in this episode I want to focus on what works best as far as online safety training goes, and what to avoid.

Years ago, a model for training emerged called Adaptive Learning. I won’t bore you with the higher education definition of the term. Not because I don’t think any of you would understand it; of course you would! But because when we use the term in the context of online safety training, the definition takes on a whole new meaning.

Adaptive learning for this discussion simply means the learner can drive the direction of the training based on their interactions. This goes well beyond the old “CORRECT/INCORRECT” feedback responses they typically get.

So let’s get into what to look for in online safety training and what to avoid.

So for online safety training, adaptive learning is simply the lesson presenting an activity whether it is a questions, matching, photo to select what is wrong, even a short clip of a work scenario and some question after, and then, based on the learners answer, they are presented with more information.

A simple example is if the lesson presents a question like, True or False: “safety glasses are only to be worn when you are performing a task with a power tool.” and the learners selects true, the lesson presents information explaining that “many times employees are around someone or will pass by someone using power tools that may present a hazard, given this information what should you do?”

The learner would then select an answer, again, either answer results in more information other than a simple CORRECT/INCORRECT. You see, the lesson seems to adapt to the learner’s responses. So how does this work?

The answer is quite simple. Using software one can easily create different “slides” with this information. Then using buttons for answer options, link each option to a slide with the relevant info. You could even do this with PowerPoint - create branching slides based on responses.

The question is, how deep do you want to go with it? Ideally you want to go as far it takes to make a point. If someone doesn’t get a simple concept by the third slide or so, it would be best to present a policy statement and ask several different ways if they understand; requiring a “yes, I understand” selection. If not, their training is paused until an actual person can coach them.

But back to the training concept, it is that simple. It is more engaging and informative to ask if PPE needs to be worn in a specific scenario (either described or shown in pictures or video). And if they choose the wrong answer, present a slide or video or picture with text with the rationale for the right answer, then ask it again in a different way to verify they understand the concept. Make sense?

So imagine an online training lesson that adapts this way? It is far better than the old “Pump and Dump” approach that is still used today. This adaptive learning model is great as it allows you (if you are the creator) to really dive deep on concepts and ideas for the learner. Even the correct answers can introduce another level of depth into a concept.

This graduated approach makes complex issues like CSE or Fall Protection easier as it allows you to introduce and validate foundational elements before getting into more complex ones. The learner tells the system when he/she is ready for the next level.

Another way to approach ANY online safety training is to use a blended approach. This can be live or broken up over time. Meaning, combining online training with instructor-led training. This can really enhance learning.

Imagine taking basic definition of terms on concepts of fall protection in an online adaptive learning course, then jumping into the classroom for hands-on demos and activities to reinforce what you were introduced to online? That is really powerful. I have seen this work well.

This brings up a distinction worth noting; the difference between training and education. I have a simple way (maybe too simple) of looking at the two terms:

Education is transferring knowledge of a particular subject.

Training is the practical application or use of that knowledge.

So to me, taking an online course about fall protection simply educates one on the requirements of the subject; definitions, procedures, policies, etc.

Training is the hands-on demonstration where learners have to inspect harnesses with hidden flaws, practice donning/doffing, using snap hooks, practice using a beam strap on a simulated beam, etc.

You need BOTH in many safety and health topics. So to me, you need to be involved in the training and education process for all employees. You cannot simply pass this off to an online option with no input whatsoever.

That said, online safety training is extremely effective and user friendly, accessible, and affordable. Many topics that simply require knowledge (education) about requirements can be taken online. A lot of us safety professionals need to keep up on regs, permit requirements, etc. and much of this is at the education level I just talked about. Maybe one could add an activity to fill out a permit or shipping manifest or something like that as a training aide.

But by and large, much of what we professionals need is definitely in the realm of education vs training. There are so many options out there for this. Personally, I have an affiliate relationship with Atlantic Training. Their courses are affordable, and give you what you need to get started; knowledge of the topic. I have a link in the show notes if you want to check them out. Again, they are not a sponsor or anything like that.

Other options are the National Safety Council. They have industry recognized training and education courses that I have recommended for years now to clients and even listeners that have contacted me about how to brush up on their safety management skills. 

So look around, ask peers what they did and how they liked it - that is still the best way to get feedback before you buy. Also, many offer free lesson previews as well. So be sure to look at those to see if the look, feel and style of the online training is best for you. I have taken some where the voice was digitized, monotone and just unbearable! I would not have chosen that course if I had a preview first.

So look for that. Also, look for anything that provides downloads or supporting materials like manuals, handouts, even job aides to use with others at work, like tool-box talks, safety huddles, etc.

The internet is seemingly endless with options these days. So I hope I have given you some options to look for. Let me know what you think - have you taken some really bad lessons? How about your recommendations?

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Mentioned in this episode:

Mighty Line Floor Tape

Atlantic Training

National Safety Council