As a society still reeling from a global pandemic, it has been amazing to see our collective ability to adapt to this new lifestyle as we wait for answers on this virus. Everyone from large agencies to small agencies, and everything else in between has needed to adapt – and they have. One thing that has remained consistent throughout this pandemic has been the need to learn. This is one thing that social distancing cannot stop. Businesses must train new hires, employees are required to meet several continuing education units, or we need to attain a specific certification.
As workplaces look for other solutions to train their staff, the obvious answer has been to do so online through open enrollment, but is it meeting all of their needs? Having the students’ ability to complete courses at their own pace, and at a selected time, cannot be understated. The student also can rewind the course if they miss information, take notes at their own pace, and do so all from the comfort of their own home. It is usually the most time-friendly and cost-effective option for many people. Online learning will also keep costs down for agencies. They will no longer have to pay for travel for the employee, pay for meals and per diem, or deal with the usual travel delays. Online training can be a great benefit to many people. But it may not be for everyone.
When training is done in a classroom through closed enrollment, there is a specific day, time, and place. Students can bounce ideas off each other and share stories. They can ask the instructor questions and get answers in real-time. This type of training provides the opportunity to build camaraderie with the other students and the instructor. This approach personalizes the experience for the individual enrolled in the course. It also allows the person to get out of the office for a day. This is all missing from an open enrollment online course.
The cost of in-person classes can be a real problem for agencies, specifically in the 911 industry. They not only have to pay for all the expenditures of the person going to the class, but they will also need to pay the person covering their desk when they leave, effectively doubling the cost. In some situations, these classes may need to be rescheduled or even canceled. This can occur due to not enough people attending the course or an extreme event such as weather or even a pandemic. There may even be a change due to something occurring with the instructor, such as illness or even an instructor’s flight canceled. The agency may be refunded the costs or the class can be rescheduled, but what if the agency already sent and paid the employee for the day and their replacement? In today’s world, this type of training is not even feasible with the need to social distance from other people due to COVID-19. Agencies need to find a solution that brings all the attributes of online training, with the engagement and ability to interact as in-classroom training.
One option has been to meet these needs through hybrid training. This training can fill a void left by traditional in-classroom training and traditional online training. Hybrid training, generally done within a video conferencing program, has the closed enrollment set up of a classroom course. You will need to pick a specific time and stay with the same students as the course progresses. This will bring a level of familiarization with the other students and instructors. Students will have the opportunity to form relationships that are not possible during traditional online courses. The instructor being on webcam also allows the student to see and read his emotion and see their passion; he is no longer a faceless voice teaching in a vacuum. The same goes for the rest of the class who choose to use their webcams. The instructor can simultaneously teach multiple students and have the students talk amongst themselves in designated times where they can share ideas and ask questions. This hybrid approach allows the student to have interactions they need for a positive learning experience and adds the ease of completing the course from their location while also keeping costs down.
With video conferencing software being more entrenched in our everyday lives during this pandemic, this hybrid approach of training is an excellent opportunity to meet student’s learning needs. We will likely see more training scenarios being created and utilized with these pandemic restrictions, but the question remains, will they continue to exist post-pandemic?
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