Public safety agencies are understaffed and overextended. They juggle many different responsibilities throughout the day, including a critically important one: training users on new software systems. However, technical user manuals developed for software systems can be long, complex and difficult to read and absorb. Many user guides explain which features are available to use, but neglect showing how a feature works. Utilizing an online training library can help fill this gap.

Given the scope of their duties, however, many public safety agencies are limited in their ability to devote one-on-one time for essential training and professional development. They also may need ongoing educational support beyond their initial, introductory training. With educational services designed to provide instruction and training on software applications and systems, agencies can supplement the standard user manual to help train and grow the potential of their personnel.

For a busy agency like the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, however, having  an online library of on-demand courses helps resolve several training challenges:

Mastering the scheduling conflicts

For public safety agencies in particular, one of the most difficult aspects of training isn’t even about the training itself; it is finding the time to train personnel whose daily work is often mission critical. It’s also a challenge to coordinate multiple schedules to get everyone in the same room. An on-demand training and learning tool can help alleviate these scheduling conflicts because trainers can assign training courses for officers and dispatchers to take online when their schedules permit.

Closing the knowledge gaps

Sometimes field training officers, dispatch trainers and administrative trainers vary their training in a way that can lead to gaps in knowledge.  Within our own agency, for example, we find that some individuals were unaware of certain features because they didn’t cover it in their initial training. With a standardized training module,  we ensure that everyone gets the same information and that all critical features and functions of the software are included.

Adjusting to customization needs

Training manuals and videos  often lack the customization an organization may need. Washington County Sheriff’s Office originally set a goal of creating our own training videos. However, that was very time consuming.  With a resource like CentralSquare University, we can make our own training materials and videos through the modules. This allows our personnel to go beyond the basics. For example, in addition to learning how call-taking works in general, our personnel can learn how call-taking works specifically at Washington County via a training video we can create ourselves. This gives us the ability to be a little more specialized in our processes. 

Overcoming COVID-19 limitations

COVID-19 has restricted many in-person interactions, limiting our ability to hold in-person training events. Without being able to collaborate face-to-face because of the pandemic, we might have had to search for an application to create training materials and videos of our own. The online training library gave us a solution for meeting social distancing requirements stemming from COVID-19. We now have an easily accessible resource where we simply go to the learning website and assign or create trainings for our users.  We’re no longer limited by the restrictions around face-to-face training during the pandemic.

Even with the most comprehensive software training, questions about features and functions will always arise. Overall, agencies that supplement “official” training with online educational resources enable users to deepen understanding of the applications they use every day. An online educational resource library, such as CentralSquare University, would be a benefit to any agency as it encourages continued learning of the software systems, as well as additional workplace training like HTML and more. As technology continues to evolve, it is necessary for end users to continue to have the confidence in adapting to those new changes.

Author Bio: Karen Haines is the Public Safety Systems Manager for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, MN.