In response to restrictions on public gatherings surrounding COVID-19, TCIA has accelerated its plan to launch workshops with both blended and alternative delivery methods. Most notably, we pivoted our approach with the Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) training to provide interactive, live, virtual workshops coupled with eLearning content and a virtually proctored certification exam.
We have seen amazing results with this blended approach, which has given students the flexibility to engage in learning and taking the exam during off-hours. We have leveraged best-in-class technology to achieve measurable results that contribute to the adoption and nurturing of a safety culture.
In conjunction with our training partner, The Training Clinic, we adapted the two-day CTSP workshop to four days, each with a two-hour virtual workshop session, with homework assignments in between.
We knew when we launched this pilot program that we would need to plan, execute, analyze and adjust. While this online, virtual format was successful, as evidenced by academic success and participant feedback, we needed to adjust the timing. We switched to offering a one-day virtual event, spacing sessions apart with activities in between. It made for a long day and an intense learning experience, but was as successful as the previous iteration of the pilot and met the timing needs of our members. A true win-win.
To date, we have offered four virtual CTSP certification workshops, and 78 students have participated.
The virtual workshop is staged on the Adobe Connect platform. Students log in to this virtual environment, where they join other students and the instructor. This environment allows the instructor to share his/her presentation, create whiteboards for students to answer questions and brainstorm on, share charts with the group members and even break the students into separate work groups. The interface is user-
friendly for the students, though there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work done by the instructor and the person in the technical-
The virtually proctored exam is an example of the exceptional use of technology times two. We have eLearning content and the certification exam uploaded to TCIA’s learning management system (LMS), called Brightspace. Students log in to this platform and participate in the associated eLearning content (in this case, a series of videos and supporting text), and, once the content is completed, they can access the exam.
To proctor the exam, we add yet another layer of technology by leveraging the ProctorFree service. ProctorFree allows us to record and review the behavior of the student in the exam environment. The student takes the exam and submits for grading. ProctorFree takes the recorded data from the three channels and runs it through their artificial-intelligence metrics to look for anomalies. An anomaly is defined as any activity or behavior that may suggest cheating, such as video feed showing someone picking up a cell phone or audio of another person detected or opening another window on the computer screen. These anomalies are flagged in the exam timeline and are reviewed by TCIA staff. Once the exam is graded by our LMS and any anomalies are cleared, the results of the exam are shared with the student.
The need to be agile and flexible while maintaining the integrity of our educational programs is the guiding force behind TCIA’s current and future efforts. We want to meet students where they are and provide superior educational opportunities for our industry.
What’s next? We will continue to offer virtual experiences, and will launch online testing in Brightspace for Tree Care Academy courses beginning this month.
For more information on the CTSP program and TCIA’s new virtual training opportunities, visit tcia.org and, under the Safety tab, click CTSP.
Bryan Dalton is director of training and credentialing for the Tree Care Industry Association.