Styles of Learning
People learn in many different ways. For some, certain ways are more effective than others to grasp and retain information. This is why adapting to different learning styles is so important when training in the fire service. Fire department members, whether career or volunteer, come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and education levels. They represent just about every age group and bring a wide range of experience.
When it comes to education, there are four main learning modalities or styles, based on how people use their senses during the learning process. These are:
- Visual (seeing)
- Auditory (hearing)
- Kinesthetic (moving)
- Tactile (hands-on)
Action Training Systems’ Online Interactive Courses focus on the visual and auditory modalities using full-motion video, computer graphic illustrations and formative assessments throughout the course. Unlike other online training that is filled with narrated static slides or screens loaded with text, ATS programs engage and connect the student with the topic.
Information is presented in sections with a focused learning objective. Questions are asked throughout the section to confirm understanding before allowing the viewer to move ahead. After watching full-motion video of job performance skills and techniques demonstrated by professional firefighters and EMTs, users are prepared to confidently answer the final exam questions. All these features, especially the visual modality, help to increase information retention.
Visual Learning is Effective for Retention
Paula Heitt, Training Officer for Winona Fire Department in Texas, relayed how effective the use of high-quality, engaging video is for her volunteer members.
“The video format is really a step up as far as helping with retention. We’ve seen that with our firefighter students, shifting from just a didactic white board type of education to a dynamic video-based education has improved their retention. This is especially true for folks that struggle with reading long sections of text. We know there’s people that this is a challenge for, so that video format versus “death by PowerPoint” has been a big improvement.”
Engaging the Firefighter Results in Success
There are many online first responder training programs on the market. The majority of these push their Learning or Record Management System (LMS/RMS) as the most important feature, with less emphasis on the actual training or the effectiveness. We also have an LMS that delivers our courses.It provides certificates, tracks student activity, and their test scores. Instructors can also communicate with students through the LMS, assign curricula using an internal message board, and import files into other RMS systems. Although our LMS is robust, we believe this tool to be secondary to the training that is provided.
The priority of any Training Officer should be a solid foundation of knowledge and the continual honing of skills that will keep members safe and increase their success on-scene. This is why we focus on providing highly visual, engaging training.
Improving Firefighter Test Scores
Many ATS customers have experienced great success using the online interactive courses. Student test scores and passing rates have increased. Instructors have also noted higher retention rates and more engagement from their crews. Training Captain Frank Bracken from Chena Goldstream Fire Department in Alaska had this to say about using ATS: “After 6 months of using ATS Online as part of our training program, we’ve seen an overall increase in competency for both testing outcomes, and during drills. We will definitely be renewing our subscription!”
Kinesthetic & Tactile Learning – Hands-on!
In addition, the use of these interactive courses allows the instructor to use the “flipped” classroom or hybrid teaching model. Students complete courses on their own, allowing flexibility that can greatly reduce the time spent in the classroom. This gives the instructor or Training Officer more time to follow-up the course with opportunities on the training ground. This is where kinesthetic and tactile learning occurs – during hands-on skills training.
Adjust to Learning Styles: Train In New Ways
Paula Heitt had this to say about using the “flipped” classroom model: “In firefighting training, having the time to devote to skills is invaluable because when it comes right down to it, those skills have got to be part of your remote muscle memory. A firefighter needs to be able to draw those skills forward quickly. So, we need time to help firefighters build their skills. If we can start with some of the didactic education presented online in a sub-learning environment, we have a lot more time to spend on the hands-on skills on the training ground.”
Chief Training Officer Mike Moore, at Southern Stone County Fire Protection District in Missouri also remarked on the difficulty of getting training into the hands of their busy members, and the importance of having more time for hands-on skill-building. He found the solution using Action Training Systems online platform.
“Action Training Systems has made training easy to administer and even easier for our members to get the training they need. The online platform allows our members to learn at their pace and at a time that makes it convenient for them. Perhaps best of all, it allows more time spent on learning the hands-on skills needed to be a proficient responder. I highly recommend ATS to any department that is struggling with busy people who want the training but may not have large blocks of time to sit in a classroom.”
Assistant Chief William Allen, at Winona Fire Department also confirmed this. He had spent a lot of time trying to recruit and retain volunteers before implementing the ATS online system. He found the hours and commitment required are difficult for many members. And, after all the time spent, if the member wasn’t able to pass their certification exams it became a very discouraging process.
“ATS has been very helpful for me. Developing a training program in a rural firefighting area is hard, especially developing one that will work to get people engaged, get them to actually pursue getting their certifications.”
Allen is now able to offer a program that his members have been very successful with, and the number of volunteers pursuing certification has increased exponentially.
Teaching Tools & Learning Options
Remember, an LMS is only part of the training solution. In addition to the online courses, Action Training Systems provides a wide range of instructor tools that can be used in a variety of ways. This includes IFSTA and J & B manuals, chapter correlation guides, Facilitator Guides, DVDs, PowerPoints, CE from CAPCE and more.
Honoring the different learning styles of your members and providing tools and products that engage and enhance retention are just some of the ways that you can make them successful. In turn, you are creating a safer workforce that can more confidently provide emergency services for the communities they serve.