|October 23, 2000|
E-Learning Moves Out Of The Office
Emergency workers and sports teams are part of the growing audience for online training
By Noah Shachtman
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There's growing demand for niche E-learning applications that train very specific--and nontraditional--types of workers, says Elise Olding, director of knowledge learning and collaboration for the consulting firm Hurwitz Group. "In the E-learning area, we're seeing a natural evolution beyond basic offerings," says Olding.
In Warren Township, Ind., firefighters are learning how to respond to emergencies involving hazardous gases and materials via a new online training program offered by Train4Life.com. Since June 15, the Web site has offered online courses to emergency-response professionals. "It's a great opportunity to get more information," says Tom Neal, a firefighter and hazardous materials specialist for the fire department. "This sort of specialized material is hard to get offline because there's always new information coming out." The online format makes it easier for training providers to update information. In addition, online training helps the fire department cut costs and time related to classroom training. Previously, firefighters had to travel to training centers in other states that specialized in these areas, Neal says.
Train4Life.com was created by Science Application International Corp. and Click2Learn.com Inc. SAIC developed the training material using a team of 50 in-house and outside experts, such as nurses, medical instructors, physicians, and paramedics. Click2Learn.com hosts the site.
The online classroom offers individual, self-directed classes for emergency-response professionals ($10 per course, $5 per final exam). But Train4Life.com will soon offer virtual lectures given by the firm's consultant experts.
Greg Whitaker The site also addresses certification issues related to emergency-response training. To be recertified, states need emergency workers to complete a certain number of training hours every two years (the national guideline for an emergency response professional is 60 to 120 hours, but states have the power to determine the exact number). Recertification requires training in a variety of areas, such as dealing with cardiac trauma and response to biological and chemical weapons. For emergency workers, finding time to complete training can be tough.
Michael Schertz, a team leader in SAIC's emergency medical training and preparedness division, knows the emergency response life all too well. He's a paramedic and spent four years as a civilian instructor in the Army's Special Operations Medicine program in Fort Sam, Texas, training Green Berets and Navy Seals in the crucial aspects of trauma management. Schertz also worked as a medical instructor for private companies for 10 years.
"Traditionally, training has to happen on time off, or on free time between calls. But that free time is sacred--especially if you've just pulled a 24-hour shift," Schertz says. "Our courses are self-paced, so you can take in the material when it's convenient."
New York City's 11,000 correctional officers face similar challenges with their work schedules. Officers are often required to work the "wheel," a series of rotating shifts (noon to 8 p.m. one day, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. the next, 6 p.m. to midnight the day after). To hold a supervisory position, officers must have completed at least 60 college course credits. With such an unusual schedule, correctional officers who don't have that educational background find it nearly impossible to attend the college courses needed for a promotion. But that's changing, as officers should soon be able to "attend" college from their home PCs.
The jail guards' union, the New York City Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, recently started a pilot program with Educational Video Conferencing Inc. (EVCI) that lets officers take online classes offered by local education institutions, such as Mercy College in New York. Most officers are expected to take criminal justice courses, but any online class they take from designated local colleges--from basic accounting to literature--will count toward the 60 credits they need.
More than 1,000 correctional officers have applied for the online learning program, union president Norman Seabrook says. "This is a project to help further our members' careers, and to help create better-educated, better-qualified correctional officers for the city of New York in the process," says Seabrook. Using the Internet, EVCI can provide students with live, two-way, broadcast-quality video, as long as students have access to a digital subscriber line, asynchronous transfer mode, T1, cable modem, or satellite connection.
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Photo of Tom Neal by Greg Whitaker
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