Remote Protocol Training
November 23, 2022
I was an EMD certification course instructor when COVID exploded more than two years ago. I was used to interacting with my students in person, but then things switched, and I started teaching remotely in April 2020. Since then, I have taught over 100 courses and have seen many things in the remote environment.
As someone who teaches remote and in-person courses, I always try to provide the best instruction that I can. What I’ve noticed is that the remote environment can sometimes require more effort to keep students engaged. With that said, I’d like to share some tips to help agencies prepare new students for success.
I understand that budgets are tight for everyone; however, with a minimal investment you can help your students be better prepared. What Priority Dispatch®/Academy recommends is two monitors (15” or larger) for viewing the instruction and materials. As an instructor, I would recommend a minimum of two 17” monitors and preferably that the instruction be projected while using the computer for accessing digital materials. When an instructor is there in person, all the materials are being projected, and the large format helps the students see and follow along much easier.
If your agency doesn’t have a projector, this doesn’t have to break the budget. There are many options under $100 that would work well for these purposes. Another option is to connect to a large screen TV, either through an HDMI cable or “casting.” During my time teaching, I have witnessed many students using very small screens or even phones to try to follow along with the class and access their digital materials—this is just not effective.
They also need a working microphone to participate in both individual and group scenarios. Webcams are highly recommended and required for online exams. It has been my experience that students who have their webcams on during class, do better on the test.
GoTo is a fairly processor intensive program. While the requirements listed on their website seem fairly modest (https://support.goto.com/webinar/help/system-requirements-for-attendees-g2w010003), I would recommend a computer with a newer, not necessarily the newest, processor and at least 8GB of RAM. Most often when students are having issues with the digital materials loading, it is due to the processor throttling because there are multiple things running at the same time.
They also need to be able to access the digital materials and understand how to effectively use them. The Mimeo digital materials are very powerful and user friendly. There are different options for accessing the materials—web page, tablet, or pretty much anything else with internet access. Again, you want something that will have a good viewable space for accessing the materials. You can place bookmarks, highlight, make text boxes and shapes—a great many annotation tools are available. Any annotations made are saved to the individual copy of the digital materials.
If your agency is providing the student with physical materials, you need to make sure they are up to date. If they have older versions of the course manual or older/incomplete versions of the protocol, they will not have the appropriate information available to prepare for the test.
Reliable internet is very important for the distance learning environment. This can sometimes be an issue, especially in rural locations. Work with your IT department ahead of time to help ensure there won’t be firewall issues. We’ve found that a download speed of at least 100 Mbps (test at https://www.speedtest.net/) works best. Over 50 Mbps is the BARE minimum download speed, but this is not great and often you can’t use your camera at these speeds.
Help ensure that your student has an environment that promotes learning. I know that many agencies do not have dedicated training space, but here are some of the things I’ve witnessed during my two years of teaching remotely:
- Students on the comm. center floor actively taking calls.
- Students in hospital beds for various reasons.
- Students driving down the road.
- A student who was on a camping trip.
- Students in shared break areas with people frequently walking through.
Again, do your best to provide them with a distraction-free environment that will promote learning. If they will be participating from home, try to ensure that they understand the importance of a good learning environment.
Help to foster an attitude of learning prior to the start of class. When I have students who are active and engaged, it always makes the class more fun and enjoyable for everyone. While most agencies use ProQA®, the protocol education courses have a foundation in the cardsets. While I love ProQA, it is very important that students have a firm grasp on how the cardsets work for testing purposes. Learning the cardsets is not just for the test though; as great as technology is, sometimes the technology just doesn’t work the way it is supposed to and then we must rely on our knowledge of the cardsets to do our job. Even after the course, I encourage students to not just rely on ProQA, but to spend a little time in the cardsets on a regular basis to remain familiar with them.
Here’s an example that illustrates why this is important. On April 27, 2011, we had an F4 tornado go all the way from one side of Tuscaloosa (Alabama, USA) to the other side. The tornado was less than a quarter mile from our main base, where our dispatch center was at the time. We had been using ProQA for about 6 months and everyone had just left the cardsets sitting on the desks. When the power went out and the generators were brought online, several of our computers were fried from the power surge. On top of that, the power was out for days until a stable power source could be secured. This incident was a good reminder that when everything else is hitting the fan, that’s not when you want to relearn how the cardsets work.
To help students prepare for the test, the best resources include having them take the tests at the end of the chapters, practice with the scripted group scenarios, and if possible, participate in the remote course study hall sessions. If you are aware of testing issues a student may have, reach out to Priority Dispatch/Academy to discuss testing allowances.