Same-same… but still different

In the public safety sector we frequently use standardised, unit of competency based training and assessment activities. At the big picture level across the agencies there is a lot of sameness – but yet there is multiple layers of difference that need to be considered.

Units of competency include a range statement to account for differences in workplaces and organisations, but further to this as trainers, assessors and learning designers we are expected to customise things further to suit our group of learners.  This doesn’t just mean at an individual level, but for those of us helping to create the “standard” course it also means looking at a bigger picture of organisational learner characteristics, or even characteristics across multiple organisations.

Let’s look at some considerations for each of these.

Individual learner characteristics

When faced with a group of individuals that should have their learning needs catered to, it is possible to determine individual learner characteristics such as:

  • Previous experience in work, life and training
  • Age, gender, cultural requirements
  • Motivation
  • Location and access to resources
  • Language, Literacy, Numeracy and technology levels
  • Other identified needs requiring adjustment to learning
  • Learning styles

Depending on how well we complete this process, we can then adapt our training style and focus to best meet the need of this group of individuals, while still working within the requirements of the course and organisation requirements.

Organisational learner characteristics

What about when you are designing training or assessment at a higher and wider level?

If you are developing material to meet an organisation full of learners, how do you consider and address characteristics then? Is there a generic profile of what a learner or learners are typically like to help guide your design?

Luckily annual reports, workforce planning, research and literature, as well as surveys can help build a picture of learner trends across an organisation. The information may require some digging and extrapolating, but you should be able to find statistics or anecdotal evidence that will give you organisation wide learner profiling including:

  • Average length of experience with the organisation
  • Average age ranges and gender
  • Location and access to resources (including computers and internet connection type)
  • Previous education, as well as language, literacy, numeracy levels (For some emergency services this is tested as part of the employment process. For other organisations, especially those heavily involved with volunteers, there has been some great generic research on education and foundation skill levels across communities, which could be applied to organisations that are a reflection of the communities they serve)
  •  Previous implementation and success of learning initiatives dependent on delivery method and learning approaches

By considering these factors, it is possible to design something that will hopefully meet the requirements of learners across the organisation.

Sector wide learner characteristics

One level higher again – if you are trying to engage multiple organisations or agencies in training together or encouraging use of common resources (because often the content is the same in many ways!) how do you consider characteristics and needs of learners across different organisations? This is something we should have been thinking about for a few years now, especially with the push for multi-agency training programs gaining momentum in several states.

To a certain extent, the learner needs identified at an organisational level will provide the key information. It will need to be compared across the different organisations involved, especially in areas where there are differing minimum levels of skills and LLN needs.

Consideration should be given to the differing language and slightly unique processes used by different organisations – always looking for commonality and helping to ensure learning is understandable and meaningful for all learners. In particular, look at:

  • Scenario choice – some emergency situations and events are more generic and inclusive than other emergencies
  • Graphics choice – especially anything that denotes uniform, ranks or positions during an emergency
  • Audio choice – especially applicable to online learning! This includes any music and choice of characters for voice overs. This may also include clips from radio chatter
  • Word choice – Jargon, jargon, more jargon, acronyms, lots more acronyms, some mnemonics… this is all especially hard when different organisations call the same thing different things!
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