Insight by Blackboard

How agencies must continue to adapt to the new approaches to training

If agencies already hadn’t moved training online, the pandemic most definitely forced the change.

The Defense Department, for example, is massively overhauling the way it trains troops and civilians by hosting courses in a singular online repository.

While the Pentagon conceived this concept as early as 2016, the pandemic created the sense of urgency to make the change. DoD says its joint knowledge online system has been hitting record highs delivering more than 500,000 hours of training every week.

Another example is the Government Education and Training Network (GETN), a consortium of multiple agencies, including the FAA, the Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command, the Air National Guard, the Defense Health Agency, and the Department of Justice. GETN depends on a distance learning network across the U.S. and dozens of international sites. GETN distributes its training content via a video-based distance learning program.

What these two examples show is today more than ever, agencies are relying on teaching and learning technology to deliver training to their employees.

And that technology not only is mission critical, but the data drives decisions about current and future workforce needs, skill gaps and training requirements.

Agencies are finding more value in online training and education, and the data that comes from it. There are steps and considerations to build on the urgency and the lessons the pandemic has provided.

Bryna Dash, the vice president of government and corporate business at Blackboard, said agencies are recognizing how to take traditional online tools and expand them out to encompass other approaches.

“Typically when we think about training, you have to come in to the facility, take a course, maybe it’s a two-day course or two-week course, but now we can do all kinds of different workflows of training, including on the job,” Dash said during the show Learning and your Agency’s Mission sponsored by Blackboard. “A great example of this is one of our clients, the Agriculture Department, who is using on-the-job training when they have to shift inspections of different agriculture products. Where an inspector may be very proficient in inspecting avocados and now have to go inspect peanuts, they can pull down the right training at the time they need it, go over it and move out on the mission set. They don’t need to come back into the training facility or reach out to anyone else to get the assets they need.”

Dash said the concept of micro-learning is more important than ever and the interest in this type of consumable content is more important than ever.

She said the micro-learning content development is much different in government than in private industry because of the specific mission sets of agencies.

A big key to improving the blended learning experience for employees is for agencies to move their training programs up the maturity curve.

“Some agencies are still using Excel spreadsheets. They just are, and they just need basic automation to get out of the management of the courses and into the content and mission of the courses. That can be a first or second step for a lot of agencies,” Dash said. “Agencies have been relying on enterprise systems for their training, so they’ve had to use systems that were bought primarily for other purposes for their education and they are finding that is not fully fitting all their requirements that they have.”

Once you automate, Dash said the next step is connecting the data sets to mission to improve outcomes based on training.

“We are focused on providing data context in the flow of the work. If I’m an instructor of a class, I can see who are my engaged or unengaged learners based on the metrics in the system and I will know where to focus my efforts on those unengaged learners,” she said. “At a broader scale, you could say who are my engaged employees because you can use this technology across more than just your courses? It’s about artificial intelligence in the flow of the work you are doing and in context so you can adjust real time to make sure everyone is successful.”

Dash said accessibility and open standards also are key to the continued evolution of training and education.

The Evolution of Training

Some agencies are still using Excel spreadsheets. They just are, and they just need basic automation to get out of the management of the courses and into the content and mission of the courses. That can be a first or second step for a lot of agencies. Agencies have been relying on enterprise systems for their training, so they’ve had to use systems that were bought primarily for other purposes for their education and they are finding that is not fully fitting all their requirements that they have.

Trends in Training

The government is a leader in accessibility through 508 compliance. The user interfaces on these technologies have to be 508 compliant, that is a given. But what about the content? How do we deliver the content in a way where we are meeting the learner in the best way that they learn? What about audio or video files? What about translating it into different languages? What about having an online reader so as you are reading it, it’s highlighting it with you? These technologies exist today and improve not just accessibility for accessibility sake, but it helps the learner because you are meeting them where they learn best.

Listen to the full show:

Featured speakers

  • Bryna Dash

    Vice President, Government and Corporate Business, Blackboard

  • Jason Miller

    Executive Editor, Federal News Network

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