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7 Tips for Safety Trainers to Embrace Online and Outcome-Based Education

Jan 05, 2024
Safety instructor with a beard holding a spreadsheet and leading an online course

Most safety professionals spend about 30% of their time performing training-related activities, according to an informal poll of ASSP webinar participants. And with many employees continuing to work remotely or across various work sites and shifts, online learning has become a necessity. 

But it’s challenging to deliver effective outcome-based education online. Virtual training doesn’t naturally offer the hands-on, do-it-yourself learning that is most impactful for workers.

Safety trainers must design virtual training to combat the shortcomings of online learning, create engaging and memorable content and ensure participants get the information they need.

Our Blacks in Safety Excellence (BISE) Common Interest Group community invited Kevin Slates, Ed.D., CSP, a professor in Indiana University’s School of Public Health, to tackle this issue in a presentation titled “Outcome-Focused Learning: Strategies for the Design, Delivery and Evaluation for Virtual Environments.”

He offered tips rooted in the ANSI/ASSP Z490.2-2019 standard, “Accepted Practices for E-Learning in Safety, Health and Environmental Training,” to help safety trainers improve their outcome-based online education.

1. Use This Formula to Achieve Outcome-Based Education

The Z490.2 standard recommends safety trainers follow these steps to develop a quality online learning experience: 

  • Start with a needs assessment that considers:
    • Availability of quality producers, instructional designers, facilitators and administrators
    • Electronic technologies and available internet connectivity
    • Learning literacy levels, computer skills and appropriate languages
    • Online versus in-person learning preferences
  • Identify learning objectives. Develop precise descriptions of specific and clearly defined levels of performance you expect learners to exhibit before you consider them competent. Slates recommends using strong, active verbs for objectives such as describe, list, demonstrate, discuss and identify.

  • Select online learning delivery methods based on objectives, training needs and available resources. The consensus standard recommends blended learning where possible, including synchronous (such as a real-time webinar) and asynchronous (such as a training module).

  • Design for electronic devices. This includes finding the right platform, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx, PowerPoint or Canvas. Consider these key features when selecting the platform:
    • Available screen space and viewing experience
    • The ability to scroll easily
    • The size of buttons or items and the ease of clicking them

2. Focus on Creating Memorable Training

Teaching adult learners requires different methods than those typically associated with traditional education. Adult learners want education that is: 

  • Self-directed
  • Experience-based
  • Practical
  • Problem-centered
  • Goal-oriented

To meet these needs, Slates recommends safety trainers look up Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience, which suggests that the more active the educational experience, the more information people remember. In general, learners retain:

  • 90% of what they do
  • 70% of what they say and write
  • 50% of what they hear and see
  • 30% of what they see
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 10% of what they read

 This means avoiding text-heavy slides and designing hands-on experiences.

3. Experiment With Different Techniques for Engagement

“Adults learn by doing,” Slates says, so safety trainers should create exercises or activities that allow online learners to engage actively by talking, writing or doing.

  • Identify items online learners might have on hand to reinforce a lesson.
  • Ask questions with multiple-choice answers throughout a presentation.
  • Include games.
  • Use relevant, interactive mobile apps.
  • Use a breakout room for small discussion groups or activities.
  • Show scenarios through photos or videos and ask participants to identify hazards.
  • Consider using a case study and ask participants to report what they’ve learned.
  • Ask open-ended questions and allow participants to speak to the group.
  • Introduce role-playing scenarios.

4. Engage Participants From the Start

“It’s not necessary to do backflips or juggle,” Slates jokes. But it can help to start with a short video or picture. The Z490.2 standard also encourages visuals and audio that “effectively support and reinforce one another.” Statistics, stories or clever quotes can also set the stage, Slates adds.

5. Set Expectations for Virtual Training

It’s important to set expectations so online learners get the most out of the session. Slates recommends asking all learners to turn their cameras on because engagement is much higher when they are on screen. Then safety trainers should review the learning objectives and explain expectations for participation and evaluation.

6. Connect Training to Business Needs

For sustained safety improvement, correlate safety trainings to business needs.

“You’ll have better outcomes around managing risk and risk awareness,” Slates says.

This might require safety trainers to give participants more context about why the training is important. Doing so assigns more meaning to the content and communicates the benefits of completing the training. 

7. Ask Learners to Evaluate the Safety Training

Evaluation is a key outcome of safety training, and there are many ways to achieve it.

  • Deploy pre- and post-quizzes or polls to track knowledge improvement.
  • Have learners write out answers to questions directly tied to the learning objectives.
  • Include a demonstration that allows learners to show their competencies.
  • Provide a checklist of what they should be able to do by the end.
  • Use a think-pair-share exercise during which learners work together to solve a problem or answer a question about their reading.

Consider including both formative evaluation, which takes place during the session, and summative evaluation, which occurs after the session (Annex G of the Z490.2 standard provides guidance on this topic). The standard also highlights the importance of providing feedback with explanation to learners and opportunities for additional practice.

By implementing these best practices and tips, you can level up your safety training to improve effectiveness, engagement and outcomes.



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