“I am curious if anyone has an opinion about online safety training versus classroom training?”
This question, posted in an online health and safety discussion forum, generated a flurry of responses. Last time I checked, there were nearly 400 comments, many of them making compelling arguments on behalf of training methods on each side of the equation.
In my opinion, it doesn’t have to be a choice.
An approach that blends training methods is likely to have a more lasting impact than a single mode of training. Training requirements are influenced by factors such as the nature of the industry, workplace culture, executive leadership, the regulatory environment and employee tenure. With new employees, for example, training optimally is delivered using initial classroom instruction, on-the-job supervision and online training to reinforce learning.
As part of a blended approach, we are seeing growing opportunities for the provision of online training, both domestically and globally. Many countries are adopting safety systems and processes (e.g., OHSAS 18001), but they don’t have enough qualified safety professionals to train frontline employees on them. Classroom instruction often varies by location and session depending on the instructor’s work skills and life experiences, leading to training inconsistencies.
Knowledge retention and application also differs among learners depending on their ability or desire to actively participate during the session. As a result, there is a need for consistent training across multiple locations and, for multinational companies, at worksites in countries other than the U.S.
As part of a broad safety program, eLearning helps ensure that all employees receive high-quality instruction, typically provided at a lower cost and in about half the time it takes to deliver it through the classroom. Sound online safety training also encourages employee engagement and retention. In turn, it becomes part of the foundation for a strong safety culture.
In a recent blog post, Workplace Safety Depends on Language Understanding, Rosetta Stone, a language-learning company, notes that businesses seeking the benefits of an international workforce should be particularly careful to ensure that nothing gets “lost in translation” when it comes to transmitting vital information that could impact business viability and the ability of workers to be healthy, safe and productive on the job.
Additionally, offering the same safety training across all locations and in the learner’s native language reduces the double-learning-curve effect, where employees have to first translate the content before they begin to comprehend the subject.