An Online-Training Primer for the Public Sector

It's gotten harder to get government workers the training they need. Virtual learning can help to fill the gap.

Virtual training saves money and eliminates geographic, spatial and time constraints.
<a href="">(Shutterstock)</a>
With public-sector budgets tight and conference-related spending under continuing scrutiny, how are government agencies adapting to develop their employees without compromising quality? One response: Many public agencies are increasingly moving training online and out of the traditional classroom setting.

GovLoop, an online training and collaboration community that describes itself as "the knowledge network for government," surveyed its members and found that almost 90 percent of respondents had attended at least one virtual learning event in 2014, up 2 percent from 2013. It's not hard to see why that number has been growing: Going virtual eliminates geographic, spatial and time constraints, since learners can attend from any convenient location. Webinars and virtual classroom tools such as surveys, whiteboards and text chat facilitate session engagement and appeal to participants' different learning styles. Archived recordings of sessions allow for on-demand and repeat viewings. And the cost savings related to travel, lodging, and lost time and office productivity are significant.

Virtual training is not without its challenges. The move from live, in-person training to virtual learning is a novel one and takes some getting used to. The transition must be handled appropriately in order to get agency leaders, staff and public employees alike on board. Overcoming negative perceptions and past experiences with early efforts at virtual training may present hefty obstacles, as is managing the bandwidth of system resources required for effective operation.

Given virtual training's benefits and challenges, how can a public agency reliably and effectively achieve its learning objectives in the virtual classroom? Here are five steps for successful implementation:

Assess the landscape. Engage your users. Ask them what type of training would be most useful to them. Have they participated in virtual training before? If so, who led it, what platform was used and how was the experience? If not, what are their concerns and interests? Engaging early and often helps reduce fear of uncertainty.

Choose the right online learning platform. Consider what you need to create a vibrant learning environment. Do participants have the necessary equipment to participate fully? Does your agency already use a platform? You have a wealth of options: Adobe Connect, AnyMeeting, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, MaestroConference and WebEx are just a few. Consult online-training experts and well versed public leaders. Sit in on a free GovLoop, Emerging Local Government Leaders or International City/County Managers Association training session or webinar. Note your experience. Many commercial platforms offer 30-day free trials, so take a test drive.

Engage participants in the learning process. Virtual curriculum design and delivery requires its own set of skills to keep participants interested and engaged. Adults are active learners. Minimizing lecture-based instruction and incorporating meaningful engagement every few minutes is critical. Incorporating chat-based feedback loops, Q&A and group exercises throughout makes learning more effective. Keep modules clear and concise. Use video and imagery as appropriate. Most importantly, provide your virtual participants with a platform overview before the start of the session.

Prep your instructors. Do a pre-training run-through with your instructors. This familiarizes them with the platform's functions and boosts their confidence. You may find that some exercises do not work in a virtual setting, while others -- such as role playing in mediation training -- can work very well. Moreover, run-throughs allow you to minimize potential issues that may occur in the actual session.

Evaluate. Embed a simple evaluation into your "thank you" slide. Were learning objectives met? How was the platform? What worked well? How can you improve the experience for the next offering?

Learning, after all, is about experimentation and iteration: assess, decide, develop, act and reflect.

Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?
As more state and local jurisdictions have placed a priority on creating sustainable and resilient communities, many have set strong targets to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with commercial and residential buildings.
As more people get vaccinated and states begin to roll back some of the restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic — schools, agencies and workplaces are working on a plan on how to safely return to normal.
The solutions will be a permanent part of government even after the pandemic is over.
See simple ways agencies can improve the citizen engagement experience and make online work environments safer without busting the budget.
Whether your agency is already a well-oiled DevOps machine, or whether you’re just in the beginning stages of adopting a new software development methodology, one thing is certain: The security of your product is a top-of-mind concern.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, over half of the workforce will require significant reskilling or upskilling to do their jobs—and this data was published prior to the pandemic.
Part math problem and part unrealized social impact, recycling is at a tipping point. While there are critical system improvements to be made, in the end, success depends on millions of small decisions and actions by people.
Government legal professionals are finding Lexis+ Litigation Analytics from LexisNexis valuable for understanding a judge’s behavior and courtroom trends, knowing other attorneys’ track records, and ensuring success in civil litigation cases.