Public safety agencies are feeling the impacts of COVID-19 in many areas, including how we train our employees on new technologies. For Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, we had to change our initial plans around in-person training for our new software system, going from in-person training for our officers to remote training.

Initially, we were apprehensive because we thought it would be difficult to interact virtually, especially for software training. However, we found out very quickly once we installed the training software that the process would be a very smooth one.

Here’s what the officers thought about remote training

Our officers’ reactions to the remote training told us everything. During our scheduled breaks, for example, many people chose to stay engaged with the software to learn more about its capabilities rather than step out. Many officers stayed afterwards to continue discussions with us about what the software could do for our agency.

After the training, we received emails from some of the officers who said it was the best training they’d ever had because they got a lot of information and plenty of time to interact with the software to really familiarize themselves with it. It was a very personalized experience, considering the instructor was never physically in the room. 

Here are three key steps that made our remote training successful:

  1. Utilized a well-suited facility: We held our training in Monroe County’s emergency operations center. Because it was a large room, everyone was appropriately spaced out per social distancing rules. Each student had their own computer and phone. They were able to individually dial into the conference call, so whenever they had a question, they could simply unmute themselves and interact with the instructor as if he was in the room with the trainees. I think that worked out well for us, as opposed to trying to ask questions from across the room through just one phone. Projectors also allowed us to project an individual’s screen to the entire group. With this setup, the remote training was much more interactive than we originally anticipated.
  2. Provided each officer with their own computer: For any agency thinking about remote training, we recommend every trainee have their own computer, as typically a hands-on experience helps improve information retention. With an individual computer for each trainee, the instructor was able to see each participant’s screen to make sure everyone was keeping up. Also, because the instructor could physically see any screen, he could address any questions individually or put the question up on the large screen to address with the entire group.
  3. Communicated before, during and after training: We virtually connected with the instructors prior to training to discuss expectations from both sides and ensure we were all on the same page. In addition, we spent time debriefing after each day’s session. This was our opportunity to speak one-on-one with the instructors and let them know from our standpoint the areas where people were confused or areas where we believed they excelled. We gave the instructor feedback to help them make minor adjustments for keeping everyone’s interest, while making sure the training moved forward smoothly. Ample communication was a key contributor in making the training as efficient as possible.
Tablet technology

The future of remote training

Remote training certainly reassured us in the event this pandemic continues for some time. If remote training remains as the only viable option for our agency for the near future, we’re confident in our ability to meet this new challenge, as well as the instructors who went above and beyond as a valuable resource. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to see training in a virtual setting, we’re excited about what the future holds and how quickly our officers can learn to interact with new systems.

Author Bio: Captain Dan Zdybek and Deputy Ryan Sottile are with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Michigan.