Blog by Bill Booth
Interact Business Group

How did you answer the question raised in this articles headline?

Yes, we need to do something.

Yes, we tried, but we have to make a change.

Yes, we need to get started, let’s give it a try.

We have already started, its working, but we can do better.

I recently taught a class titled, Strategies & Tactics for Success with On-Line Training and Education. The class focused on online training in public safety departments. The audience was training officers, directors, chiefs, department budget staff, technology officers, and instructors.

Sound Familiar?
Most class attendees fell into one of the following four categories:

1. We have been meaning to look into computer based training, but can’t seem to find the time or budget.

2. We don’t know really how or where to begin.

3. We need to reduce our training budget; will computer courses help me do that?

4. Yes, we bought some online courses, it’s working OK, but we can do better.

NOTE: Although the class was attended primarily by fire service staff, the subject matter of online and e-learning could easily crossed over to law enforcement and all areas of safety training.

Why You Should Keep Reading
Attendees to the class or readers of this post (you) have an interest in learning about how to:

1. Start using online learning courses and technology.

2. You are in the early staging of incorporating online training and want to avoid rookie mistakes.

3. Develop a tactical (short term) and strategic (long term) plan for using and benefiting from online learning.

Following is a summary synopsis of the class:

Start With The End In Mind
If a public safety department, police, fire, EMS, etc. is considering implementing online training technologies, the training chief or project team leader must establish their end game goals. Using the following three principles when developing the specific goals and objectives for the project will serve as the guiding principles for the project.

>> Be specific: Identify exactly what you want to accomplish with as many specific details as possible.

>> Be measurable: As the old adage says, You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

>> Be realistic: Set goals and objectives that reach beyond the comfort zone, but are also realistic. Be careful with this one.

Establish Implementation Tactics
There are ten key implementation tactics needed for successful implementation of online learning for a public safety department; they include:

1. Establish a project team. Include other banner carriers and allies.

2. Define the vision and goals. What does a successful program look like?

3. Define learning needs and wants. Why are we doing this and what solution does it provide?

4. Define established technology infrastructure. What does your existing technical infrastructure look like?

5. Define existing courseware. What do you already have that can be used or repurposed?

6. Baseline available technologies and courseware. What technology is available in the marketplace?

7. Develop implementation and phasing scenario. What is your step-by-step approach?

8. Develop cost budgets. Consider purchasing equipment, software, hired technical assistance, and so on.

9. Measure and evaluate cost benefits. Set milestones that are measurable, observable, and serve as progress markers.

10. Management buy-in and funding. Get everyone on the same page and get them to support the endeavor.

Where and How To Begin
As illustrated in the 10 implementation tactics, getting started requires considerable planning, management buy-in, technology understanding, and funding. When first staring out ask yourself the following seven questions. This a good starting point and the questions will help you to understand the full needs, impact and depth of the project:

1. What authoring system should we use?

2. Should we buy off-the-shelf prepackaged software?

3. Should we develop our own courses?

4. What type of hardware do we need?

5. Will it keep us compliant with legal requirements?

6. How do we track and schedule our training?

7. What class topics will be best learned through e-learning?

This post is intended to provide a short synopsis of how to get started with implementing online training programs for your department. Again, this is just a guideline to get the ball moving.

About the Author
Bill Booth’s organization, the Interact Business Group, is recognized as a national leader for the development of strategic business plans for the public safety training centers. In 2012, Booth started ResponderGateway.net, which is a news, opinions and technology website. He lives in Northern San Diego County with his wife Carole. He can be followed on twitter @InteractBill.