Product Focus: Education/Training

Trends in ... education and training

Advancements and involvement

It’s hard to go anywhere these days without seeing people with smartphones – and safety professionals have noticed this, too. So will safety training of the future involve a touch screen?

Barrett Pryce, messaging and media specialist at Pasco, WA-based Vivid Learning Systems Inc., says yes. “Mobile devices put training directly into the hands of workers, along with accountability,” Pryce told Safety+Health.

Frank Powers, chief technology officer at Grand Rapids, MI-based Health & Safety Institute, summed up the benefit of using mobile technology with training. “Mobile devices allow for a cost-effective and easily portable solution to get online training delivered to all sizes of workforces, no matter their location. The end has come to the room full of terminal kiosks,” he said.

Another new technology to keep in mind involves virtual reality. “The new generation of virtual reality headsets is offering new opportunity for training,” said Loretta Foley, director for Stamford, CT-based United Academy. “This technology allows an extremely immersive and personal experience of a virtual space, which can take training simulators or serious games to a whole new level of engagement."

Bumps in the road

As with any new technology, hiccups will occur along the way. “Thus far, the critical issue in the evolution of mobile training is broad compatibility,” Pryce noted. “To be effective in the context of the ‘bring-your-own-device-to-work’ age, mobile content must work with platforms provided by common device manufacturers.” Powers agreed, stating that “consideration to course flow, graphics and animations must be accepted since the smaller mobile devices have less screen space and processing power.”

In a joint email to S+H, Krystal Burrows, senior curriculum development specialist and Paul Paulick, senior mobile and technology product specialist for Neenah, WI-based J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., spoke of the difficulties of tracking digital training. “Because there may be very little documentation associated with these learning interventions (if any at all), many people underrate their impact or importance,” they said.

Burrows and Paulick went on to state that without adequate tracking mechanisms, workers may “feel inclined to say they watched a particular video, or read an assigned article, even though they didn’t.” To make sure this doesn’t happen, they recommend creating a culture centered on the importance of training, as well as reinforcing the notion that training is done to keep workers safe and healthy.

Barbara Tait, general manager for Belleville, Onterio-based SafeStart, cautioned against concentrating solely on e-learning and online training, and spoke of the value of engaging with employees through storytelling. “If you needed an operation, would you want your surgeon to have learned the procedure entirely through an online course?” she asked. “The best training programs provide a blended format of in-class training, storytelling, and hands-on practice and reinforcement.” Tait acknowledged that e-learning can be beneficial but believes it should be used as a complement to existing training, not a replacement.

The importance

For Foley, involving workers in training is crucial. “Engagement is key, as the more a trainee is engaged, the more they are paying attention, the more they are learning, and the more they will retain as they go out into the field,” she said.

Tait focused on family when discussing what the most important aspect of training is for workers. “After seeing thousands of companies train employees, I can say with confidence that safety training is most successful when employers appeal to workers’ agendas – avoiding injury so they can coach their kid’s soccer game, continue providing for their family, and hopefully even teach safety skills to their loved ones.”

Burrows and Paulick concluded that workers need to take training seriously. “Learners must understand knowledge transfer and concept mastery does not simply occur when they passively absorb information. They need to be actively engaged in the learning process, and then put their newfound skills, knowledge or behaviors into practice on the job,” they said.

Coming next month … 
Head/face protection

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association