Many of TCIA’s education and training programs are now available online. We sat down with Bryan Dalton, TCIA’s vice president of training & credentialing, to learn what this means for tree care workers and employers.
Q. What is the first thing readers should know about TCIA’s online learning opportunities?
A: The first thing is that we are meeting learners where they are and offering online content that best meets the learners’ needs and expectations. Features such as narration of content and tests can really help people digest the concepts. Video demonstrations replace diagrams and artwork of the past. The positive impact on the industry is huge.
Q: Some TCIA courses have been online for a while now. What are course participants saying about their experiences?
A: Students and employers find the online courses very convenient and cost effective. Students like the self-paced format. Since they can go at their own pace, it makes it easier to focus on one section at a time. Students also like the interactive material and hands-on practice.
Q: How many people are using it?
A: TCIA has been using D2L’s Brightspace Learning Management System (LMS) platform for more than two years, and to date we have more than 9,200 unique users.
Q: What makes this different from most online learning experiences?
A: TCIA has made concerted efforts to create a blended learning opportunity. The blended learning experience in its simplest form can be broken down into “tell, show, do.” Tell the learner about the concept. Show the learner how to do it. Allow the learner to do it and provide feedback. The “tell, show, do” method of teaching is highly effective and addresses the three learning-style preferences: auditory (tell), visual (show) and kinesthetic “hands-on” (do).
Q: Can you tell us what the blended experience means to users?
A: TCIA’s design team creates an intentional combination of text, video and interactive tools to optimize the learning experience. The “do” part is outlined within the online course as well as in the “Extend Your Learning Activities” section of the modules. All the “do” activities are listed for the learner to practice with a mentor or crew leader on the job or, more formally, as an apprentice with their journeyworker.
Q: How are in-person workshops coupled with online courses?
A: In-person workshops are supported by the online courses. TCIA developed the TCIA Trainer Qualification course to teach trainers how to use the online courses to complement their in-person workshops. The 10 modules of the course outline learning theory and application, digital-tool use and how to provide meaningful feedback. The course has a final project called a capstone that has each trainer review an online course, take the student exam and create a lesson plan for a blended learning experience using the online content and physical workshop they plan to offer.
Q: What do you see as the advantage to this approach?
A: This approach shifts TCIA’s focus from offering workshops to content development and qualified trainer support and development, so trainers can take our products and offer their own workshops. Their teaching time is optimized by front loading the content through the online course, which establishes a student-class baseline of understanding. Trainers can review the class progress and interact with the class throughout the online course, giving them keen insights to their learners, which helps them customize the workshop to best meet each learner’s needs.
Q: But not all TCIA’s online courses involve a physical workshop, right?
A: The best way to answer that is to point out that these online courses are designed for self-paced (rainy-day) study, employee-development programs, apprenticeships, workshops and annual training requirements, so they can easily be applied to whatever format is available or desired.
Q: What courses are available online, and is there an order learners need to follow?
A: EHAP and more than half of Tree Care Academy Career Pathways are currently available online in English and in Spanish. TCIA rebranded Tree Care Academy to include Career Pathways. This speaks to your question about order. Our online courses are designed to meet the learning needs for the specific jobs the learner is doing now or aspires to do next. For example, Ground Operations focuses on the chain-saw skills needed while working on the ground. When that student studies the Tree Climber series, (s)he will then revisit chain-saw skills, but now from the perspective of being aloft.
Q: What is the cost for courses?
A: Online courses range from $36.99 ($57.99 non-member) to $89.99 ($141.99 non-member) per learner.
Q: Are there opportunities for a company bulk purchase or group training?
A: Even better. TCIA can create a learning portal for individual companies. This is a secured subset of the LMS platform where companies can enroll their employees, assign training courses, monitor their progress and maintain training records for all their employees. The portal is free to TCIA member companies. Company admins can go into their portal and purchase courses within their own custom storefront, getting their employees online and training within minutes. Any admin interested in hearing more about this opportunity can contact us. The advantages include:
- Potentially significant cost savings.
- Access to the most up-to-date course content, as each individual course is constantly updated with changes and enhancements.
- The ability to track employee progress in real time.
- A data hub for employee training completions.
- A tickler system for training expirations and enrollment to renew.
- The ability to create a custom career pathway for employees at various levels.
Q: You’ve been involved in the online learning experience for several years now, both at TCIA and in your previous work. What do you see as a major advantage for TCIA members?
A: In my opinion, the advantages solve pain points. One of the biggest pain points in this industry, and it certainly is not unique to this industry, is recruitment and retention with an affordable training program. Everyone knows the importance of training, but with significant turnover rates, employers need an affordable and effective training program to attract and retain employees. TCIA’s Brightspace learning-management system and our online courses take the guesswork out of building an effective training program to promote both safety and efficiency. The learning-portal structure is the best-in-practice option for cost savings, monitoring of learning and compliance reporting.