Distance learning can be a valuable tool in assisting pest management firms in their training programs.
NPMA’s hazard communication course is a great example of how distance learning can be a valuable tool in assisting pest control firms in their training programs. Because of the verifiability of online training, it is one of the best formats for satisfying regulatory compliance training.
Distance learning can be defined as education or training where the learner is not physically present in a traditional classroom type setting. The concept has been around for many years with varying levels of technology required. However, recent advances in technology have made it easier to expand distance learning opportunities.
How Does it Fit?
The tools and techniques that can be used in distance learning are numerous. We often associate it with computer-assisted learning through webcasts or online tutorials but there are many different distance education tools. In addition to our traditional understanding, online courses can consist of discussion groups where students are required to comment on a reading assignment or researched topic. The posting and viewing of a video with or without built-in interactions or quiz questions is another. The video might be used as an introduction to a topic or to refresh the trainee’s memory prior to moving on to another learning task.
Regardless of the sophistication level of technology used in distance education, interaction is an important component. Mixing of media and methods to reinforce learning is another. Simply asking trainees to review a module may not be sufficient in enabling learning comprehension and retention even when interactive quizzes are incorporated. Following up with a field training exercise or a discussion group are examples of tools that can help in reinforcing the learning concepts along with the module. In other words, mix it up and incorporate a variety of methods.
Additional Technology Tools.
There are several tools that can be helpful in gaining additional interaction including the use of automated student hand-held answering devices or “clickers.” These are devices that can be used to track a student’s response to a question posed by the instructor. The answers and percentages can then be shown on a screen and tracked by students. These can be used for increasing interaction in the classroom or potentially during an online webcast. In addition to keeping the student engaged it can help provide valuable real-time feedback to the instructor regarding student comprehension. The instructor can then modify their methods for increasing learning comprehension. They can also be used to record attendance electronically and eliminate the need for passing a paper attendance sheet. The systems can be purchased where clickers are supplied for the student or free services are available where cell phones are used to record responses. Examples of these can be found at pollseverywhere.com and socrative.com. The Polls Everywhere service is free for group sizes of 40 or fewer. Larger group sizes will require a paid upgrade. Purchased systems with supplied clickers and receivers include Qwizdom and Turning Technologies. The use of a question tracking system can blend well with training where absentees are required to complete an online module for making up missed sessions. The same questions can be tracked in the module that were used in the classroom.
Quizzes also can be used to reinforce and check a student’s knowledge. Firms with learning management systems (LMS) may have a quiz tool built into the system or have software available through their course authoring tools. Adobe Captivate is one such authoring tool that can allow you to write courses and quizzes. Programs can be designed to use with smart phones for a quiz and learning on the go. Mobile learning is the next trend in distance learning facilitated by smart phone and tablet access. There are also systems that can be used online and for free or a slight charge regardless of whether you have your own in house tracking system or course authoring software. Christian Wilcox of McCauley Services and Wayne White of American Pest Management are using the online ClassMarker program. This program allows you to generate quizzes for trainees to complete online. They offer free 30-day trials for businesses that allows trainers to experiment and assess the value of the program for their organizations. After the free trial, the cost is based on the number of quizzes used. This program can be used to generate quizzes, certificates and a statistical analysis of the quiz results.
The author is technical director, McCloud Services. Contact her at email@example.com.