Jeff Karcher, director of environmental health & safety at UW-Stevens Point, made the most of a recent novel experience. He participated in a UW System safety training programonline.
Designed for those working with hazardous substances, the online training course was accessible by using either a dial-up or a network connection. While a new experience for Karcher, the training was "well organized and served as a good alternative method," Karcher says.
"Though not a replacement [for traditional methods of training], it is a good addition and a valuable resource, with the potential to be expanded and utilized further," adds Karcher.
According to Ernest Stracener, occupational safety manager in the UW System Office of Safety and Loss Prevention, the online training system "is an excellent way to approach mass training (and) is less of a burden for supervisory personnel, because they don't necessarily need to be experts in the subject matter to provide the needed training."
"Online training is an experiment to see if we can effectively deliver staff training by online methods," Stracener adds, noting that there are 65 safety standards that require some type of initial or ongoing employee safety training.
With 30,000 employees spread out over 26 UW campuses and more than 100 UW-Extension facilitiesmost of whom are required to receive training on Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication StandardsStracener does not have many options when it comes to training his employees.
He could organize individual training sessions at each campus, at a great expense of time and resources, or plan one accessible training session that all affected employees could attend. With the latter option in mind, Stracener turned to University of Wisconsin Learning Innovations (UWLI) for assistance and collaboration.
The UWLI-UW System solution? An online training course accessible anytime, anywhere that was launched in January.
While online training is not really a new concept, "It is the way that we approached it that is unique," emphasizes Stracener.
He had scrutinized similar offerings before and rejected them for not meeting the unique requirements of training thousands of employees in a distributed university environment. As a result, he and eight other campus managers developed and fine-tuned the content while UWLI adapted it to suit UW System training requirements and added interactive exercises to reinforce the key concepts.
The easy access enables UW employees to benefit by participating in the course and gaining a basic proficiency in topics covered by the regulation while ensuring a consistency in materials and training.
Another of the Hazard Communication Standards online participants, Laura Giede, a senior laboratory preparation technician at UW-Stout, found the online training to be easy, interactive and quick with assessments.
"I liked the fact that you get your score right away," says Giede, "Also, all components of the training program are applicable to my job."
Stracener collaborated with other job safety and health experts from within the UW System to develop the content and overall project, including Sue Kerns of UW-Milwaukee; Dean Sankey of UW-Stout; Jane Rank of UW-Green Bay; Carol Lindberg of UW-Superior; Vay Rodman of UW-Whitewater; Dan Sweetman of UW-LaCrosse; Tom Bradley, formerly of UW-Parkside; and Jim Morrison, formerly of UW-Stevens Point.
Ashwini Rao was a communications specialist with UW Learning Innovations at the time she wrote this piece. She is now an associate outreach specialist for the UW-Madison Center for Cooperatives.