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					                                                                                 INNOVATIONS IN LEARNING


Training to the Rescue:
First Responders Power Up
Skills While Cutting Costs
by Alison Gjefle and Valine Vikari




I
         n the movie Apollo 13, one of the scientists sup-        sending 90 people from 14 offices around the country to a
         porting the astronauts’ return to Earth interrupts       central location was becoming increasingly costly—both
         NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, insisting               because of travel costs and because of lost productivity
         “Power is everything! Without it, they don’t talk        and disruption for the employees.
         to us, they don’t correct their trajectory, they              To mitigate costs while maintaining the high quality
don’t turn the heat shield around.” He then lists the criti-      of the training, DOE created an online learning solution.
cal functions the astronauts need to survive re-entry.            It partnered with Vivid Learning Systems, a national
     While power may not be everything in the aftermath           provider of online compliance safety training programs.
of a disaster, it is crucial. Without it, hospitals can’t treat
patients, shelters can’t help victims, police and firefight-      Creating a Two-Part Solution
ers struggle to provide support, and communications fail.         To create online training that would meet the needs
And on a more personal level, families wrestle to cope            of the first responders, the first step was to understand
with their normal daily activities, delaying any return to        those needs. Analyzing the structure of the original
normalcy.                                                         program, the Vivid Learning Systems team was able to
     For the Department of Energy’s Emergency Support             glean that the first portion of the training—the tra-
Function (ESF) 12, part of the Federal Emergency                  ditional classroom training—was designed to impart
Management Agency (FEMA) National Response                        knowledge, while the simulation component was designed
Framework, power is everything. Restoring power after             to provide practice. Thus these two critical features
a disaster is the goal of this team of about 90 dedicated         became the base of a two-part online training program.
responders who provide emergency support on a volun-              Part one was a self-paced, asynchronous component that
teer basis in addition to their regular jobs. The ESF-12          enabled responders to learn the information. Part two
team has helped in several disasters, including the 2011          was a synchronous online component that would bring
tornado in Joplin, Missouri; the 2010 earthquake in               the responders together in a virtual space to get the criti-
Haiti; the 2009 tsunami in American Samoa; the 2007               cal practice they needed.
tornado in Greensburg, Kansas; and Hurricane Katrina
in 2005.                                                          Imparting the Knowledge
     Like most highly skilled and trained responders,             Effective classroom training involves immersing learners
ESF-12 members are required to take regular refresher             in the topic, providing interaction, and engaging learners
training to ensure they are current with all regulations,         socially. Classroom training provides social motivation
to familiarize them with new processes and procedures,            to participate through discussions with other learners
and, perhaps most important, to provide the opportu-              and instructors. Asynchronous online learning, however,
nity to practice in preparation for the real thing. Prior to      provides none of that social motivation to participate and
2010, this annual training took the form of three days            requires that the learner be self-motivated enough to per-
of traditional classroom training combined with a live            sist through the training. Therefore we had to consider
in-person simulation. Although the training was effective,        these factors when designing the asynchronous online


                                                                                           The Public Manager   |   Fall 2012   35
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portion of the training program for ESF-12: How would                The third module provided the training required for
we keep the learners engaged? How will we ensure they           the learners to navigate the synchronous training plat-
persist through the course?                                     form so they could participate actively and effectively in
     After six months of research, development, and fine-       the synchronous training exercise.
tuning, Vivid Learning Systems produced a set of three
online training modules designed to be as realistic and         Providing Practice
                                                           In converting the traditional classroom-based train-
relevant as possible, with interactivity built in to heighten
learner engagement. Another feature of the modules that    ing program to an online blended learning experience,
both enhanced engagement and ensured mastery was the       ESF-12’s training team insisted that the responders get
use of built-in case studies, scenario-based knowledge     the opportunity to participate in a live simulated disaster
checks, and quizzes. For the simulation, participants      response. This had been by far the most useful part of the
would demonstrate mastery through completion of            training program, according to the team, and it provided
assessment features.                                       the best preparation possible for responders.
                                                                                                Knowledge acquisi-
                                                                                           tion alone—whether
The traditional classroom training was designed to impart                                  classroom-based or online
                                                                                           and regardless of how
knowledge, while the simulation component was designed to                                  effective—doesn’t equal
provide practice.                                                                          the power of an activity in
                                                                                           which learners are required
                                                                                           to synthesize and incorpo-
                                                                                           rate knowledge and apply
                                                                                           it. That’s where the learn-
     To complete the knowledge acquisition component       ing simulation comes into play. The previous incarna-
of the training program, learners would log in to the      tion of the training program enabled participants to
custom-built training portal on their own schedule and     integrate learning by allowing them to practice in a set-
work through the three modules, stopping and starting at   ting that mimicked a real disaster but was safe enough
will. The first two modules comprised these established    to make mistakes in. This was clearly too powerful a
learning objectives:                                       component of the training program to lose, and Vivid
   • recognize the team lead’s role in establishing the    Learning Systems created a solution to orchestrate a
     ESF-12 workstation                                    disaster response simulation without physically bring-
   • identify the team lead’s role in facilitating energy  ing everyone to the same place: A hands-on response
     issues with FEMA logistics, various partners, and     scenario that responders could participate in without
     ESF-12 counterparts                                   leaving their desks, which would be aided by a synchro-
   • identify the team lead’s role in ensuring FEMA        nous training delivery platform.
     public assistance issues are resolved with ESF-12          The disaster response simulation began with
     counterparts                                          responders accessing the exercise by logging into an online
   • identify the team lead’s role in recommending and     classroom through a link on the training portal. Once
     developing an exit strategy for demobilization        they “arrived” in the classroom, they were presented with
   • identify how the Infrastructure Security and Energy   background information on a fictional natural disaster
     Restoration (ISER) division is organized              affecting the island of Guam. The responders received
   • describe the response operations procedures           the same kind of briefing they would get in a real disaster
   • identify the highlights and lessons learned from the  situation, including some verbally delivered notes and a
     American Samoa tsunami and the Haitian earth-         simulated newscast that communicated the conditions of
     quake response events                                 the disaster, in this case a tsunami.
   • recall the planning and preparation activities neces-      Once they had the back story, it was time to get
     sary for response deployment.                         to work. Responders virtually “deployed” to several


36    WWW.THEPuBLICMANAGER.ORG
                                                                                  INNOVATIONS IN LEARNING

sub-classrooms designed to mimic response centers—
specific areas from which responders orchestrate power                          Return-on-Investment
restoration during a real disaster. Based on the information
they had received, the team of responders at each response          Eliminating travel and logistical expenses and the decreased
center created reports assessing the damage caused by               cost in labor yielded DOE a combined savings of approximately
the disaster and developed plans to restore energy in the           $250,000. The total production and implementation cost was
affected areas. Throughout the exercise, highly trained             $60,000, producing these ratios:
ESF-12 responders simulated the roles of the different
organizations involved in the disaster response process,            Benefit-to-cost ratio
such as FEMA, by periodically entering the various virtual          Total benefits ($250,000) ÷ program costs ($60,000) = 4.16
response centers to deliver new information.                        This means that for every $1 invested $4.16 was saved.
     After completing the simulated disaster response
training, responders were able to demonstrate mastery of            Return-on-investment
these tasks:                                                        ((Total benefits – program costs) ÷ program costs) × 100
   • Disseminate information to the other activated                 (($250,000 - $60,000) ÷ $60,000) × 100 = 317%
     response locations and communicate among response
     centers regarding issues during an event requiring
     multiple FEMA regions to be activated.
   • Handle questions and actions that come to the
     ESF-12 workstation. Demonstrate the ability to              Knowledge acquisition alone—whether
     filter, upgrade, and downgrade process requests as
     appropriate.
                                                                 classroom-based or online and regardless
   • Participate in an ISER conference call.                     of how effective—doesn’t equal the
   • Gather and assess information at the request of the
     response center or other FEMA counterparts. Assess
                                                                 power of an activity in which learners are
     the impacts to the energy infrastructure and act as a       required to synthesize and incorporate
     technical advisor regarding energy issues.
   • Prepare a field input report for their location and
                                                                 knowledge and apply it. That’s where the
     submit to the other response centers and the emer-          learning simulation comes into play.
     gency response organization director.
   • Identify and implement an appropriate battle rhythm
     (meeting schedule, reporting requirements, or daily
     activities) for their assigned response location.
   • Collaborate with the team lead and the subject mat-         Measuring the Results
     ter experts within the FEMA organization to order           Such a comprehensive restructuring of the ESF-12
     and deliver supplies to the joint field office located on   training program requires evidence that showed it had
     a remote island.                                            achieved the goal of cost reduction while maintain-
   • Coordinate with the FEMA public assistance                  ing the learning effectiveness of the original format. To
     branch on the supplies and financial aid processes          show this, Vivid Learning Systems assessed the program
     that support the restoration of the island energy           on four levels: learner reaction, knowledge, behavior,
     infrastructure.                                             and cost and organizational benefits. The results were
   • Coordinate power and energy issues with the energy          excellent.
     sector owners and operators to ensure that tempo-                To evaluate learner reaction, learners completed a
     rary and long-term power supply is restored.                questionnaire and ranked a series of assessment items on
   • Facilitate industry requests by coordinating existing       a scale of one to five. ESF-12 has a history of delivering
     or new mutual aid agreements with other public              training that meets the highest evaluations from learn-
     power providers.                                            ers. The new training format was no exception; in fact,


                                                                                             The Public Manager   |   Fall 2012     37
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average scores increased; learners indicated the online        and Vivid Learning Systems have led to a strong partner-
training seemed more lifelike than the previous face-to-       ship and an exciting search for the next level of excellence.
face program.                                                  By incorporating new technologies and leveraging more
     Measuring knowledge took place through the asyn-          interactivity, ESF-12’s annual training program prom-
chronous course module assessment exercises and end-of-        ises to keep these responders prepared to cope with any
course quizzes. Learners had to complete the assessment        disaster at less cost.
exercises correctly and pass the end-of-course quiz to
receive credit for the course and be eligible to participate   Alison Gjefle manages a wide variety of client projects such as program
in the simulation exercise. All responders successfully        assessments, course development, technical writing, facilitation and process
completed all these activities.                                mapping, and focus groups. Her background includes communications and
                                                               customer service. Contact her at agjefle@learnatvivid.com.


Learners indicated the online training                         Valine Vikari is a senior instructional designer and project manager

seemed more lifelike than the previous                         at Vivid. She has 14 years of experience developing and implementing
                                                               corporate learning and performance improvement solutions. Contact her at
face-to-face program.                                          vvikari@learnatvivid.com.




     Learners were given the opportunity to demonstrate
their mastery of the behaviors needed for successful
deployment through their completion of the simulation
exercise. As noted in the descriptions above, learners suc-
cessfully demonstrated the required behaviors through-
out the exercise.
     Finally, the Vivid Learning Systems team was able to
demonstrate that the most notable benefit of the ESF-
12 blended learning approach was cost savings. ESF-12
saved more than $200,000 in its first year of the program
solely by eliminating costly travel and lodging expenses
for more than 90 people.
     In addition to the travel savings, ESF-12 saved thou-
sands more from the decrease in time responders had to
spend away from their jobs. An exact cost savings is diffi-
cult to determine because of the different pay rates of the
responders. However, using averages of three hours for
completion of the synchronous disaster response, three
hours for the completion of the learning modules, and a
learner’s annual salary of $60,000, the cost of labor for
the total training decreased from an estimated $54,000
to $13,500. This was a conservative estimate of $40,500
in cost savings on labor alone.

Taking Learning to the Next Level
The cost savings and success of the first iteration of the             For more information
online blended learning program co-developed by DOE                    Download the full case study at learnatvivid.com/ESF-12


38    WWW.THEPuBLICMANAGER.ORG

				
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