Safety Training Goes Online at Berea City School District
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The way Berea City School District used to train its nearly 1,000 faculty and staff members on health, safety, and compliance issues was to send a videotape on the given topic to one of its 12 schools. People would attend a staff meeting to watch the video and sign a sheet to prove they were in attendance. Then the video would be sent to the next school on the list.
"Not anybody attended those meetings. They weren't very exciting," recalled Michael Sheppard, assistant superintendent. "It was very difficult to track that everybody participated in all the required training we needed to have done."
That wasn't good enough. "We realized that there were a number of different programs we needed to be compliant in--blood-borne pathogens, fire safety training, sexual harassment training," he said. "Also, we have an ethics law in our state that we have to make sure our staff is aware of and has received copies of. We found it difficult to prove we'd complied."
So Sheppard, formerly the director of personnel and employee relations, initiated a search for an alternative that would provide online training and better tracking of those who'd had taken it.
The solution he recommended--PublicSchoolWORKS--has been serving the district since 2005. This Web-based service delivers training to district staff members when it's convenient for their individual schedules. Sheppard believes the move to this software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has reduced safety problems and risk in the district and saved money and time.
How PublicSchoolWORKS Works
The Ohio-based district identifies the courses it wants its staff members to go through. When there's a specific requirement, the system generates an e-mail that goes out to all potential participants. The staff member plugs in a password to get into his or her area of the program and see the courses available. That varies depending on role. For instance, a manager might have an expanded session on sexual harassment versus what a staff member would view.
Once the training is delivered, the participant takes a short test, which must be passed by a certain percentage in order to get credit for attending the course. Sheppard can run a report that lists everybody who has participated.
Likewise, participants can get a transcript of the courses they've taken--handy for getting continuing education credit and for proving what training they've gone through should they transfer to another district in the state.
The amount of time dedicated to training has dropped. A video session on blood-borne pathogens, for example, might have taken 30 minutes in the old model. The online course lasts all of 10 minutes, not including the quiz. Occasionally classes will be longer. For example, a child abuse prevention module that all elementary teachers must take is about four hours. "But now they can go online at their convenience," Sheppard added.
Sheppard estimated that the program probably delivers on average about two hours of training a year for each person. "If you broke that expense down by the number of people who have to take required courses," he pointed out, "I think it would be a pretty good use of our funds."
An Expanding Portfolio
As new requirements come along, said Sheppard, the vendor has been quite responsive to the district's training needs. For example, recently, Berea needed to do homelessness training, so he contacted the company, which created a program that met not only Berea's needs, but also other districts in the state. "Turnaround is pretty quick," he said.
Twice a year he sits down with PublicSchoolWORKS to discuss the training needs of the district, design learning programs for the staff, and find out what's new in the portfolio of modules.
Those meetings have led Berea to subscribe to other SaaS services sold by the company, including an accident management system.
"When an employee is hurt, they fill out a form online," said Sheppard. "If the employee has gone to get medical attention, [for example,] the service immediately sends a message to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. There's very little lag time, which benefits everybody."
If the district finds a pattern of accidents in a specific area, he added, it can take preventative measures to address the problems. This has led to a reduction in employee accidents, "based on the fact that we have accurate information. It's no longer us guessing that we may have a safety issue someplace. We have facts that can support that. It drives our energies in that direction to prevent those things."
"The service may cost a little bit upfront," Sheppard concluded, "but in the long run, it's saving the district in a variety of ways."
Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.