Online learning is becoming a popular training and organizational tool for fire departments. Learn why online learning should be your department’s next investment.
Many people associate online learning with college courses but are unfamiliar with its applications outside of attaining a college degree. While online learning is a fast-growing training and organizational tool for a variety of businesses, it is particularly well-suited for fire rescue given the nature of the job – which includes a heavy training requirement, regular policy updates and firefighters working varied schedules around the clock.
Online learning management systems are highly flexible, accessible anywhere, offer a wide variety of content, and can streamline processes for the entire fire department.
Here are six reasons why you should consider implementing an online learning platform at your department.
1. REDUCE TRAINING COSTS
Online learning can replace or reduce in-person training costs by allowing training coordinators to assign pre-course work before a classroom session. Firefighters can read policies or memos, as well as watch lecture videos before arriving to class lectures which can help improve the effectiveness of hands-on training.
For example, before bringing firefighters into a training simulation, have them watch a video, assigned to them for completion in the learning management system, that introduces how the simulator works and read a training bulletin about the learning objectives for the simulation session. When firefighters arrive, they can immediately receive the scenario briefing and begin the hands-on training experience, foregoing a lengthy lecture.
Further, online training is ideal for annual training updates, such as a bloodborne pathogens refresher, that often require hiring an outside trainer or assigning an employee to deliver bloodborne pathogens training throughout the organization. Either route is time and budget consuming. A bloodborne pathogens course, loaded into the online training system, can be used for several annual training cycles and completed by firefighters without bringing them to a classroom or an instructor to them.
Additionally, by decreasing the amount of off-site training required, departments can cut down
overtime costs as well as costs for travel and shift coverage during off-site training.
2. ACCESS COURSES WITH EASE AND FLEXIBILITY
For most departments, training is a burden because it’s not always accessible; Firefighters need to travel to training, or a fire department needs to coordinate with an in-person trainer. And apart from expenses, it’s often inconvenient.
With online learning, training is available anytime, anywhere on the following devices:
- iPhone and Android powered smartphones
- Desktop computers
- iPads, Kindle Fires, and Android powered tablets
This 24/7 accessibility means that personnel can access the online training system – a knowledge base of courses, policies, and resources – to complete training while on shift, during downtime or even during their off time if allowed by their department. Off-duty training is especially well-suited to part-time firefighters, volunteers or personnel who work at more than one department.
Online learning also opens the doors to a newer concept called microlearning. Training doesn’t need to happen in only 1-hour, 4-hour or 8-hour increments. Fifteen minutes during briefings might be enough time to quickly update firefighters on a policy revision or to view a short video on a feature update to the tracking software.
Unlike in-person training, online learning can be broken into smaller sessions that can be paused and restarted over multiple sittings.
3. PROVIDE THE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES MILLENNIALS EXPECT
According to Pew research, millennials are the largest cohort in the U.S. labor force. If your department’s ratio of young firefighters to veteran personnel hasn’t shifted yet, it soon will.
And millennials have different expectations from their employees than generations past.
Harvard Business Review released a study in 2017 about what millennials want in a work environment. The study spanned multiple industries, but the results were strongly focused on generation versus occupation. One of the primary outcomes was the millennials look for the opportunity to learn and grow within their occupation more than any previous generation.
Appealing to millennials’ desire for educational opportunities, through cutting-edge technology, is a great tool for recruitment and retention.
In addition to assigned courses, leverage the learning management system (LMS) vendor’s course library to offer optional or elective courses to all personnel. Promote the availability of these courses, especially to millennials, who want to continue learning on the job and broadening their skill set.
4. IMPROVE TRACKING OF TRAINING
A combination of online training features like ease of use and high volumes of courses helps firefighters with retraining and recertification.
Firefighters have access to accredited courses that can be utilized more frequently than off-site or in-person training schedules allow. Digital time tracking means more training hours are counted, too. An online training system makes it easy to earn and document training hours for:
- Attending shift briefings
- Completing pre-course work before a hands-on training event
- Documenting participation in an inter-agency training exercise like an active shooter response drill
How does your fire department currently track these hours and apply it toward annual requirements?
Can you make the process stronger? When the Oak Park Fire Department starting tracking their training with more efficiency and increased their volume of content through online learning, they noticed a substantial increase in operations training time.
5. INCREASE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REQUIRED CERTIFICATION
With online learning, training is tracked and progress is easily monitored by administrators, which means credentials are less likely to expire and compliance requirements are more easily adhered to.
In the event that a lawsuit arises, training records are subpoenaed or a regulatory audit occurs a training management system provides tracked, centralized documentation to report firefighter department-required credentials. This ability to track and grant credentials reduces liability.
6. ELEVATE FIREFIGHTER SAFETY
As any chief knows, training is a sound foundation for a firefighter’s career, but continuing education beyond minimum requirements for these topics — and addressing a wider-breadth of issues — is imperative for a firefighter’s overall effectiveness and on-the-job safety.
Finding an online solution provides your firefighters access to these critical training topics, as well as topics more specifically related to your community.
For example, if the opioid epidemic is currently plaguing your jurisdiction, online learning tools can provide your department continuous access and up-to-date education to help keep your first responders safe and effectively responding to overdoses and investigating narcotics trafficking.
When Gaines Township Fire Department implemented a better training program, it not only helped retain their firefighters because they felt more equipped to handle their job, but their training coordinator described how improved training about safer firefighting saved their lives.
Learn how FireRescue1 Academy can help your department.