Mandated subjects such as Health & Safety and Compliance continue to be centre stage in the world of eLearning today just as they have been since the dawn of the digital learning era. Our content partner, EssentialSkillz, was established in 2001, has offices in the UK, US and Ireland, and is recognised as a market leader for Health and Safety and Compliance eLearning. We were keen to explore more about their insights and experiences in these business-critical subject domains and Andrea McMullen, Lead Instructional Designer was kind enough to share some of his current thinking with us.

Course-Source: What do you think makes for an impactful eLearning course focused on safety-critical subjects? What is your pedagogy that underpins your course design?

Andrea: “You might have great information in a course, but it won’t be an effective course if it fails to engage learners. We use several pedagogical approaches to motivate and engage learners and facilitate knowledge transfer, retention and application:

  • Creating relevant and practical learning objectives and content that employees can apply directly to their job or workplace;
  • Incorporating interactive screens, such as drag and drop, multiple choice, branching scenarios, accordions, hotspots, and clickable screens to make the content more interesting and challenging;
  • Chunking information to make it easier for learners to absorb large amounts of information;
  • Using images, icons and diagrams to illustrate and reinforce text information;
  • Applying active learning and scenario-based learning for people to apply critical-thinking, experimentation and prior knowledge towards solving real-world problems;
  • Giving learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes by allowing multiple attempts on interactive question screens and providing immediate feedback;
  • Enhancing learner motivation through facts, statistics, thought-provoking questions and practical content.

I’d like to emphasis one key pedagogical point here. In our experience, most eLearning courses primarily offer a passive learning experience, where learners are presented information and then tested on that information. We aim to do the opposite by helping learners become active participants in their learning experience. We do this by presenting learners with a question or problem and ask them to solve it prior to being presented with the information. This way, learners explore and solve problems for themselves, which is proven to be more effective towards long-term learning. Even if they answered the question incorrectly, people learn through their mistakes and by any feedback provided to them.

Utilising the above techniques in a purposefully-designed and well-structured course ensures that we bring the subject to life and offer a cohesive and effective learning experience.

Course-Source: Do you think the approach to compliance training is different to health & safety? Does the need for rigorous tracking and auditability change the pedagogy or approach?

Andrea: “Compliance training is a critical part of educating staff on workplace policies and procedures that will help keep everyone safe and healthy at work. Often, compliance training has been seen as a box-ticking exercise that ultimately fails to motivate employees or assist them in learning and applying the information to their tasks or workplace. Our courses are designed in a way to spark engagement and improve peoples’ learning experiences with health and safety and other compliance and wellbeing topics. We do this through our full-length courses that clients typically enrol their employees on annually, but we also offer refresher courses that are a fun, easy way to help staff recap the most need-to-know information on a topic.

Course-Source: What are you looking forward to the most in terms of developing and evolving your eLearning programmes this year?

Andrea: “We currently have over 70 eLearning courses in our course library. But this year, we are excited to introduce some new course titles that help promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

So far this year, we have released The Equality Act, Diversity and Inclusion, Unconscious Bias, and Gender and Sexuality Awareness. By the end of 2021, we will release two more courses called Respect in the Workplace and Bullying in the Workplace.

We also have a new title called Emergency First Aid Awareness that coincides with the curriculum in an Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certified course. Our course can be used as a refresher to those who are EFAW or First Aid at Work (FAW) certified or as an introduction to those who intend to take a practical first aid course.

We also have plans to incorporate more interactive branching scenarios in our courses and create new interactions to spark more engagement with online learning.

Course-Source: How do you deal with situations where learners must retake a course periodically? Are there ways you can keep content alive for refresher use?

Andrea: “Maintaining the learner’s interest is very important in refresher training. Rolling out the same content again and again will inevitably impact learner engagement. Our training content is revised and refreshed regularly to reflect the latest legislation and best practice. Our clients can avail of the latest content to ensure that learners always see fresh and up-to-date material when they retrain.

Some organisations prefer to use a lighter version of the content for some of their refresher training. We provide a suite of refresher courses that covers the essentials of some of our most popular titles. This allows staff to refresh on the key points of the topic.
Our Authoring tool allows clients to easily edit content to suit their own needs and requirements, enabling them to include the most up to date inhouse policies and practices as part of their refresher training.

Course-Source: In your experience, where and how do clients most commonly go wrong with health & safety initiatives?

Andrea: “Failing to proactively address non-compliance. If there is a lack of training uptake among staff then this must be addressed promptly and efficiently, otherwise complacency will set in. Managers should have access to the tools they need to identify and follow-up with staff who may be lagging behind.

Maintaining learner engagement is also critical. Whilst it is important to manage non-compliance, ultimately, you should aim to prevent non-compliance in the first place by engaging staff in the training content. If the same training content is rolled out repeatedly or if the content is not appealing, staff will become disinterested. Content must be up-to-date, interactive, and useful. It is also vital that the training topics are rolled out appropriately to each person’s role. If staff are required complete training that is irrelevant to them, they will become frustrated, regardless of the quality of the content.

Organisational Culture is also a major success factor. The established ways of working must encourage people to consider health and safety training as an integral part of their role rather than an additional, cumbersome task. However, if there is a lack of support at the upper levels of the organisation, these attitudes will filter down through the organisation. When introducing a health and safety initiative, management needs to be visibly committed. Managers should be encouraged to communicate positively and frequently on the initiative and to lead by example.

If you would like to see the EssentialSkillz approach in action you can explore their course catalogue here.