Thursday, December 17, 2009

How do you track your training?

Editor's Note: This post comes from Ilya Plotkin, Program Administrator of TRAIN.org. It is the first ever guest post on TKT, and it fits well with the site's goal of fostering a conversation in the fire service. To help Ilya out, please add your comments below.
In an emergency, one of the most important factors is training and experience. This is particularly true for emergency responders, who must take charge of a situation and turn an emergency into a non-emergency. But how can you tell when your organization, team, or workforce in general is prepared to respond to an emergency? Every single situation is different. Therefore, access to educational records and training, both at a moment’s notice and consistently over time allows emergency managers to track training and identify gaps in training. Ensuring that the right people with the right mix of experience, skills, and training are in the right roles is essential.

But that is not enough. The workforce must have access to courses, trainings, and workshops that allow them to develop their skills and increase their experience both at the request of emergency managers and on their own. In essence, an integrated system is necessary. Today, many organizations use a learning management system (LMS) to manage and track employee training and skills and allow employees to access continuing education courses. There are a variety of LMS options available, from built-to-order systems, to pre-built systems, to free platforms. These LMSs are offered by a number of different providers and each has its advantages and disadvantages, but all are online.

Despite the wide availability of LMSs, some organizations and departments are still using pre-internet methods to track training and promote courses. These include via paper and filing systems or database systems, such as Access or Excel. Compared to internet-based LMSs, these methods can be less user-friendly and less responsive to urgent needs.

The LMS I work with is TRAIN (https://www.train.org), which is geared toward public health and safety professionals and free to all users and course providers. TRAIN is a community that utilizes economies of scale and sharing across its 24 affiliates and 315,000 users, of which 31,692 identify their primary job role as “Emergency Responder.” Most importantly, TRAIN allows organizations, health departments, and fire and police departments to become Course Providers and post both classroom-based and web-based courses either to a limited audience or to a wider audience. Any organization can utilize the system to track attendance and progress of a single training or a set of trainings.

So I would like to ask: how does your department track training or publicize offered trainings? Is a LMS used, or another method? What experiences have you had with a LMS or online system in the past that may lead you to either promote or avoid one today? Your comments will help us understand what your community needs.
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