Studies show that eLearning can improve engagement for employees and reduce training time by up to 60%.

But, how well does it work for industries that require their employees to be trained in safety and compliance standards?

Workplaces that have specific training requirements for OSHA may assume that eLearning can’t help, but that’s simply not true.

Competency-based eLearning – training that emphasizes on what an employee can do rather than how much they know – can be used to help workers master tasks and processes related to safety and compliance.

Here’s how it works…

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Skill Assessments

With traditional eLearning objectives, your goal is to determine how much information your employees have retained after the course is completed. With competency-based eLearning, your objective is to measure whether or not skills have been improved in addition to information retention.

This may require you to assess certain skills and aptitudes before starting your course. Your primary goal is to figure out how much employees knew and what they could do before you started and how much they know and can do after the course ends.

Your coursework will ultimately focus on tasks and skills that can be developed over time, so you may also need to reevaluate after a period of time to see how much was retained from the initial course.

You should assess both technical and “soft” skills. Technical skills would include things like working or repairing machinery, or interacting with the workplace environment. Soft skills are things like communication, problem solving, or interacting with coworkers and leadership.

Online scenarios, roleplaying games, and other forms of gamification in eLearning can test skills that may not otherwise have a valid grading rubric. You can also use these to assess skills and aptitudes that require training before completion, like operating machinery or handling chemicals.

Keep in mind that some assessments may need to be more observational, as humans have a tendency to overestimate their own competence when it comes to completing tasks.

Scenarios and role playing can help with this, as self-evaluations or multiple-choice assessments may not give you a clear enough picture of an employee’s true competency.

Progress Tracking

Safety and compliance training requires more oversight, so you will need to find ways to assess and track progress throughout your course in order to know if certain aptitudes are being understood.

Again, scenarios and role playing can help with technical skill assessments. You can also use short-answer essays or quizzes to gauge comprehension levels of both technical and soft skills.

You want to make sure your coursework includes more interactive elements so that employees understand the “why” behind the rules, not just the “what”.

For example, ORI’s interactive training video, The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct tells the story of “a very bad day” where news reporters are interviewing a supervisor about misconduct.

Learners are able to see the consequences of poor decisions and have the opportunity to “go back in time” and see how those situations could have been changed to avert disaster.

This can be helpful to assess how well employees are able to think on their feet and use resources in times of crisis.

Personalized Goals

With safety and compliance training, there are some universal competencies that every employee needs to know, including rules and regulations that help workers avoid workplace injuries.

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While it’s important to communicate all of these competencies to everyone equally, competency-based eLearning thrives on personalization. This means that you may have to communicate universal competencies in more tailored ways than traditional eLearning.

Using your initial assessments, organize learners into groups with similar starting competencies and use training tools that best fit each group’s needs. If many of your employees are lacking basic understanding of safety principles, the coursework may need to be geared toward catching them up on the basics.

Of course, the core competencies should be included in every personalized module, and you don’t necessarily have to create different learning modules for each group.

Instead, you can use different techniques to communicate those core competencies – like videos or gamification vs. role playing or quizzes – resulting in more personalized experiences for your learners.

Additional Resources

You should also include any additional resources that can help employees who want more information or those that wish to broaden their skill sets after the course has concluded.

Having a list amiable for employees of supplemental training materials, like blogs, articles, case studies, videos, and infographics can improve retention for after the course has concluded.

For example, OSHA has a Compliance Assistance “Quick Start” Guide for General Industry that may be a helpful reference for some employees, and EHS Today has a series of safety and compliance infographics available for download.

You can also provide employees with opportunities to self-test or access tutorials that center on the tasks and situation they learned throughout the course. Infographics in particular can be helpful to reference information about how to use and operate tools or equipment in the workplace.

Remember that post-eLearning assessments will be helpful for gauging which resources are best. Keep in mind that the main goal of a skills assessment is to test their real world skill sets and talents, so your assessment should mimic real world environments and challenges.

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Final Thoughts

Competency-based eLearning can give you the power to focus on practical knowledge instead of theories and help employees put learned skills into practice.

When it comes to coursework, the emphasis shouldn’t necessarily be on how much time is spent going through the materials or taking the course, but rather how much aptitude is retained during and after the course has completed.

Frequent assessments and using a variety of interactive strategies will help build eLearning courses that will help improve competencies in real world environments.

Jonathan Davis is an accomplished professional with experience helping Fortune 500 companies achieve success in employee communication and training programs. Jonathan focuses on delivering reliable, successful outcomes that increases employee engagement through highly targeted deliverables, creative messaging and robust programs.