Step-by-Step Improved Safety & Training - Step #2: Launching a Blended Learning Pilot
Everyone responsible for safety or training in their organization is very aware that everything is changing in the maritime world. The worker demographic has shifted. Regulatory demand is rising and compliance is more complex. Fortunately, it is also the case that maritime safety and training has entered a renaissance period. New tools are available that improve training outcomes and allow organizations to assess the state of training and compliance with a level of insight not previously possible. At the heart of these tools is the practice of blended learning supported by a Learning Management System (LMS) - software to deliver training, assessments, tracking and insights.
This is the second is a series of short articles that provides step-by-step instructions on addressing modern safety, training and compliance challenges with the new and highly effective practice of blended learning. The first article
, which appeared in last month’s edition of Maritime Reporter
, focused on the creation of a minimum viable plan (MVP) for the pilot. This is a two or three page living document which acts as a roadmap for the management of blended learning. With that in place, we now turn to the next step, that of preparing and running a small pilot. The goal of the pilot is to produce a very small blended learning implementation that addresses a small number of trainees and a small number of courses / competencies. This will require minimal time and resources, but produce useful initial results. Let’s get started.
Let’s Define Success
The overall outcomes we are looking to achieve are improved training results, improved compliance tracking, and the ability to continuously measure the success of our training to inform a process of continuous improvement. The goal of this particular stage, the pilot, is primarily to gain experience. Although there is now a rapidly growing body of experience with blended learning in the maritime industry, each organization and thus each implementation is slightly different. As such, each implementation is a learning experience. Because of this, by far the best approach is to start small, and then grow in incremental stages. The first stage is the pilot.
Best Advice: Keep the Pilot Implementation Small
By definition, the pilot implementation is small. It addresses a limited number of trainees and a limited number of courses or competencies. By keeping the pilot small, we avoid any significant outlay of resources. This allows us to get started without delay. A small pilot also allows us to learn what works (and what does not) very quickly. The effect of any misstep is kept to a minimum and we can quickly apply what we have learned to subsequent stages. This is often referred to as the “fail fast” approach which, despite how it sounds, can be an excellent project management principle. In addition, the successes we achieve in the pilot provide the incentive and resources to deploy the next, larger stage. So there is real benefit in keeping the pilot small.
Implementing and Running the Pilot
There are many valid approaches to running a successful pilot. Below, we will outline the most important activities to consider and provide some basic suggestions for each.
•Engagement and Communication: before anything else, it is important to consider how the pilot program will be communicated to the organization and how stakeholders will be engaged in the creation and running of the pilot. As a first principle, it is imperative that stakeholders at all levels of the organization are involved in the planning of the pilot. This will not only ensure that the pilot is based on complete information, but it also will create buy-in. Training, and especially training transformation, is something that everyone should contribute to – not something imposed on the many by the few. Good practice here is to set up a working group with representation from new and experienced employees covering the various departments within the organization. Be sure to include the operational departments, as well as safety, HR, crewing and so on.
Second, communication is critical. It should come from the top, be regular, and be transparent. All members of the organization should understand that the pilot is being undertaken as a product of the organization’s commitment to training and safety, that employees from all levels of the organization are participating in the definition of the pilot, and that the results and next steps will be communicated. Be transparent that this is new territory and that everyone will learn as a result; that is the only path to improvement. Remember that any change requires some organizational culture shift and that transparent communication is a necessary component of success.
•Choosing the Training and the Audience: We see many different approaches to choosing the pilot training and audience, but arguably the most common is to address new-hire training. Addressing new hires has the advantage that training materials are often readily available and can easily be converted into an on-line format. Additionally, using blended learning to train new hires helps establish the safety and training culture immediately upon induction – a very positive side effect.
•Structure of the Blended Learning Program: There are many ways to blend learning, and thus many options. However, arguably the most direct, most effective and most popular is the one deployed by BC Ferries in 2007. Their blended learning approach to familiarization training was part of a safety culture transformation that reduced accidents by two-thirds and reduced annual insurance costs by three-quarters (millions of dollars per year).
Here, we divide the training into three parts: self-study, in-person training, and assessment. The self-study component is fully on-line. Trainees use this resource to learn, at their own pace, the foundational knowledge of the topic at hand. For example, if new-hire training is the subject of the pilot, the on-line resource will teach company organization, company culture, basic safety information, the regulatory framework, and any other topic that all new hires must be aware of. An on-line exam should follow the self-study to ensure that each trainee has absorbed and understood the information.
Next, in-person training, conducted by an expert, is used to train skills, relate personal experience, work through group or individual exercises, and further consolidate knowledge. This stage is made very efficient and effective by the fact that all trainees come to it with a uniform and reliable level of knowledge from the self-study.
And finally, an assessment is conducted to ensure that trainees are fit for duty. Depending on what is being tested, a combination of on-line assessments (to test knowledge), demonstrative exams (to test skills) and oral assessments (to test reasoning ability) can be employed.
•Implementing the Learning: The primary effort here is to prepare the on-line materials necessary to support the self-study and deploy those, along with any assessments, on your chosen learning management system (LMS). A good marine-focused LMS vendor can assist with this and advise on best practice. Additionally, the in-class portion of the training should be planned along with final assessments.
•Running the Pilot: Once the pilot is set up, it is time to put your first trainees through it. The pilot group should include a number of new trainees alongside some more experienced employees who have been through more traditional training. These experienced employees can provide a comparative perspective.
Once the pilot is complete, we move on to what it arguably the most important phase. This is where we analyze and collect the results of the pilot, and then use those to inform the next and subsequent phases of rollout. It is important enough that we will devote the entire third and final installment of this series to it. So, please check this space next month in Maritime Reporter & Engineering News.
Murray Goldberg is CEO of Marine Learning Systems, maker of MarineLMS. A researcher and developer of learning management systems, his software has been used by millions of people and companies worldwide.