Online radiation protection training by Ionactive - the first seven weeks

Cannot believe how quickly time passes! We were working for months on the online radiation training platform, and now the release date of 29th October 2020 seems so far in the past. At the time of writing we have 69 delegates enrolled on the RPS course (the first course to be released on our training platform). They are at various stages from recent registrations through to fully certificated RPS course attendees. In terms of numbers, 69 delegates is a pretty good start - even considering pent up demand. Ionactive has not run live face-2-face public RPS training since March 2020. Given we might have 12-15 delegates on a typical course, we have probably missed training some 100 plus delegates over the period. To have 69 delegates signed up to the online platform in 7 weeks is pretty impressive (and very much appreciated). In this blog article we will just reflect on a number of matters that have surfaced in the first seven weeks, mostly positive, and where they are less than positive, what we have done / are doing to make improvements / changes.

Online training - long term commitment

There is little doubt that the driver for creating the online training platform, and the first course (RPS training), was the restrictions placed on live training by Covid-19. That said, the feedback we are getting suggests that the online training route is here to stay. It will not be preferred by all, and we will be back running our live training from Q2 2021 at our training venue at Missenden Abbey (Buckinghamshire). Given the time spent on creation, the resources used, and the feedback so far, online training will be part of our training profile for years to come.

Whilst we have made no firm decisions at this time, in order to utilise the online training platform, and perhaps reduce our environmental footprint, we may decide to offer a printed summary of the live (face-2-face) training course material in the future (rather than the usual 200 page printed notes). This would then be supplemented by giving all live training delegates access to the online training content (minus the quizzes). We would also unlock the course such that the live training delegate could explore all parts of the course online as they please (whereas online training delegates are carefully taken through the course content in a systematic way). No firm decisions have been taken yet, but this is our current thinking. It would put live and face-2-face delegates on equal footing as both would have access to the latest course material. In addition, it is likely we will ask our future face-2-face training delegates to use the same online end of course test.

Things that have worked well

The following examples are things we feel have gone well. They are gathered from our own thoughts, but also delegate feedback. For feedback quotes please see the bottom of our online training page.

  • The method of training has worked well – online multimedia training. At an early stage we decided against using Zoom / Teams and similar technology. We think that such technology may be adequate for a few hours, but not over a full two-day course.
  • We think the material content is about right – we have the full detail of our two-day RPS course packaged and delivered by multimedia. To achieve this many bespoke videos, audio commentary, animations and slide shows were created to bring the training alive. Whereas a refresher course may fit comfortably into one day we do not believe a full RPS training course can be effectively delivered of a single 8-hour session (and certainly not using conferencing software).
  • Our training goal is to produce a course that is suitable for all delegates (it is how we have delivered live courses since 2005). Note that we also run live bespoke courses on company premises, and the online training system also allows us to design specific courses to be accessed ‘in-house’. General feedback has been good in that most delegates can see the advantages of learning ‘around’ their own workplace uses of ionising radiation. However, it is perhaps more difficult to satisfy all in this regard as compared to delivering the course ‘live’ in a training room (since the trainer can then spend time one-2-one comparing a specific delegates work with ionising radiation against another).
  • We have always been passionate about our training delivery (Mark Ramsay has a style all of his own). Generating this ‘ambience’ online using multimedia is tricky and we are not totally there yet. However, delegate feedback is providing encouragement and we are on the right path e.g. ‘I (surprisingly to be honest) enjoyed the course! I think it's very well made, and I have to say that I really liked your little videos. We can feel your passion for the subject‘(December 2020 delegate). Certainly, we have tried to capture some of the slightly quirky training style in the videos, without making it a parody of the trainer! There is more work to do in this regard.
  • The training chat / message window has been a successful. The Ionactive tutor has answered within minutes, and certainly always within the hour. We believe this interaction service helps to personalise the course with the delegate able to ask specific questions relevant to their own place of work.
  • Often during live training, where the delegate watches and listens rather than concentrates on their training material, there is often anxiety on what things to commit to memory first prior to tests or use in the workplace. The advantage of the online training is that we take the delegate carefully through the material, bit by bit and explain what things should be understood absolutely, what things are important but less essential for passing a test, and what content is for added interest and variety but which is entirely optional.

Things that need some additional thought

We have not released a training product so flawed that it does not meet its training objectives (or value for money). The late release date 29th October compared to the intended 1st August is testament to the testing and tweaks we made. However, we can do more and some of these are listed below. Note that we do not actually think all of the matters outline are problems (although the first one clearly is). Do make your mind up regarding the later ones in our list (someone’s problem is another person’s solution…).

  • Spelling! A few delegates have spotted the odd typo here and there, this is despite many hours of proof reading (probably an issue of not seeing the woods for the trees). Very helpfully one delegate supplied us with a word document of everything they have found, and we will deploy the fixes over the holiday period.
  • Multi-platform issues. Despite all the testing, we have had one or two issues where the delegate has not been able to use the training app (at least initially). Examples include login which will not work with older version of Internet Explorer, and some work-at-home VPN solutions where our app cannot talk to the cloud database. We note on the training website that the old MS IE is not supported, but the modern MS Edge browser is. The training app will work with all modern browsers on windows, apple and android systems. The quick solution to avoid any VPN issues is not so use it (i.e. use your own internet connection if you can). We are only talking 3-4 delegates with issues (that were resolved) out of 69.
  • Taking payment. Not really a problem, just perhaps surprising. We took some time, effort and finances to get the online shop working so a delegate can buy the course, enrol, take the course, gain the certificates and have 3 years further access to the online content – without any interaction with Ionactive (unless they want to of course). However, only about 1/3 of delegates have chosen this route so far, the rest have preferred the more traditional Purchase Order / Invoice route (where we manually set up the delegate on our system before asking them to complete their registration via the training app). The rest of the course is automated as for digital online purchases.
  • Course length. The course is designed to be two days – many delegates have completed in two days, but a fair number have taken an extra day (others in one day). The flexibility afforded by being able to login and out of the training as required may be a bit too flexible for some! If you want to complete the course in two days, you do need a ‘good two days’ (with timeout that would mirror coffee breaks and course lunches which are generally quite short). So, there is an element of discipline required which is easier to provide (or obey!) when in a live setting rather then working alone on your online training course. This is perhaps why online training will not be suitable for every delegate (but some will love it).
  • The delegate cannot “wing it”. This is not really a problem and is not entirely true anyway. What we mean is that there will be some delegates that know much of the material and in a live training event may be happy to listen with one ear and check their emails… At the end of the day, if they do this and pass the test then they get the certificate. We really do not get many delegates like this during live training as we try and engage them (keep them occupied!). Whilst it is true that the knowledgeable delegate can move swiftly through the online training content, they cannot skip to the end of the course and just take the test (a.k.a ‘wing it’). Many sections and all modules (where modules contain several sections) contain quizzes which must be completed successfully before moving on. The quizzes are interactive and will not leave the less confident delegate on their own – helpful hints and tips are supplied. For most delegates we hope that the structured approach and interactive quizzes assist in the learning process.
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A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life

– Charles Darwin -