Technology in General Education
New technology continues to impact education daily. The classroom is no longer the only environment in which to experience or receive quality education. No longer do we think about education being classroom only, just like we no longer use chalk and blackboards. That time has passed.
Instead, technology has brought hybrid classes, online assist classes and fully online education into our lives.
Why is online learning so hot right now? Just like everything else in life, education is different today than it was even a few years ago. Today the world turns at a very rapid speed and there is no option but to keep pace. There are too many places to go, too many things to do and too many people to see. Jobs are very demanding. In public safety, it seems we all have two or three jobs to help pay the bills — another article altogether. We are faced with marriages, children and aging parents and it is even more difficult to succeed when we are gone every minute of every day. Yet, people are still driven and want to improve their skills and increase their educational background. Online education makes that possible; it gives you flexibility and allows for better use of your personal time.
What are the different kinds of online courses?
Fully Online — Just as it sounds, a fully online class is completely online with no in person requirements.
Online Assist — The online assist is for a classroom-based course instructor who wants to add to the student opportunities by hosting some portions of the class online. The online portion might be used for homework, extra practice tests and YouTube videos supporting the class material, for example.
Hybrid Class — The hybrid class is a carefully chosen mixture of online and classroom education where neither theoretically serves as the primary means of education.
Are these technologically enhanced options viable for public safety? Yes and no, it depends on the subject, the student, and the quality of the online class.
A student must be easily self-motivated in order to succeed at any class with online components. The student must be willing to wake up from their nap, put down the PlayStation, stop family time, and focus on their classroom work. For some, it is much easier said than done. For some, procrastination turns to missed assignments, incomplete classes or even failures. For some, however, online education is the key to balancing education and life.
Additionally, the subject matters. I have taken many dozens of classes online and have taught just as many. The hardest class I have taken online was financial accounting. For someone who is mathematically challenged that was not a smart choice for me. Yes, I did have to repeat the course again later. Educational leaders need to consider moving to online classes with subject matter that is proven successful. Also, the advisor and the student should consider each subject matter when registering for online classes. For some, online success comes naturally until they run into financial accounting!
Personally, I have had more success than failure. I see that as well with the students I serve. Online classes expand the student body and can open one’s mind in new directions. My online college education was as solid as anything I have experienced in the classroom. There are good matches made every day.
Technology in Public Safety Training
In the public safety realm there are special concerns.
First, in the public safety field lives are on the line and inadequate training is not an option. Online public safety instructors must be highly experienced in both the work and instruction, careful class design is essential and the ability to stop a student from progressing immediately are vital to success.
Secondly, while some courses for example “Alarms and Communication” may be more theory based than hands-on application, other courses like “Ladders” require far more of a functional expertise.
Having grown up in the fire service it is hard for me to think of Ladders as a complex class. Yes, I can learn something every time I take it but I am far too gray headed and slow now to be a rookie at it. As a better educational example I will take a hands-on type subject that I know absolutely nothing about. Let’s say... French cuisine.
The Best Way to a Firefighter’s Heart is Through His/Her Stomach
As I type this article I can only name one French dish and that would be the fry. Somehow I think Ray Croc may have impacted them a smidgen more than any Frenchman so I push on to learn more.
Is the classroom setting an optimal place to teach French cuisine? Of course and hopefully it is a classroom with a kitchen!
Would French cuisine be a good class to be taught utilizing online assist? Of course! The online portion could highlight the most important material, display demonstration videos and allow students to post recipes for comment. Again, where is the kitchen?
Would French cuisine be a good candidate to teach in a hybrid forum where there is a strong division of online education and classroom education? I certainly think so!
What would help me learn about French Cuisine within each type of educational setting?
Culinary tastes of the French.
Examples of French food and drink recipes.
Videos of food and food prep.
Interviews with chefs and foodies.
Narrated powerpoints to stress key French cuisine skills.
Pre-tests to give green light to classroom and kitchen education
If the student is successful with the online component and remains committed to learning French cuisine they move to the classroom environment.
In person review vital material, including safety material.
Introduction of hands-on through food prep, cooking and service.
A final test to assure they have mastered the subject at hand.
Sure, French food is not “Ladders” but if you compare the needs of ladder instruction to the steps the French class took then it seems to flow in a similar fashion and can be successful when constructed well. Not all firefighters are cut out to be French chefs just like so few among us are cut out to be firefighters.
You may be wondering, is online education for me?
You must be:
- Self motivated.
- Willing to do all required work, and I mean all.
- Able to self-identify areas of weakness and further review, seeking help as needed.
- Able to study independently and have a learning style that is compatible with online learning.
- Willing to accept responsibility for lack of success, when it is due to missing any of the above requirements.
The class should be:
- From a recognized and reputable institution. (No diploma mills... overnight PhDs... ANYTHING “EASY”)
- Built by and taught by a subject matter expert.
- Built using modern adult educational theory and methods that have been previously proven.
- Conducted by a very active and present instructor.
Just because a class is online doesn’t mean you are on your own. Instructors must remain active. They will ask questions of you, discuss scenarios, answer your questions, and facilitate discussion between you and other students. If you are taking an online class and find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere without help then that class is not right for you or anyone else!
If you have doubts, sign up and take a class. You might want to consider French Cuisine — I personally suggest EMS, fire, rescue, or law enforcement instead. It is hard to judge a method of instruction without having given it a solid effort.
All of this information comes from a man who effectively failed online accounting yet succeeded in many other online courses and evolved into an online instructor in both the business and public safety fields. I am always pleased when my online classes allow people the flexibility they need to succeed; I have experienced a decade of that enjoyment. And yes, I did try cooking French Cuisine. It wasn’t bad; in fact it was good enough to feed a hungry firehouse. Au revoir et bon appétit.