New training opportunities to be available online

2 IDOC training staffers look at Elevate on a computer monitor
IDOC's Gary Charland and Lori Braseth work on Elevate

It will soon be easier for Idaho Department of Correction employees to learn new job skills, qualify for promotions and meet annual training requirements. 

Over the next few weeks, IDOC will be rolling out an online learning system called Elevate. By simply logging on to almost any IDOC computer, employees will be able to access more than 350 courses and learn at a time and a pace of the employees’ choosing.

“If they only have 15 minutes to sit down and work on something, they can do it,” says IDOC training specialist Lori Braseth. “The next time they come back, it picks up where they left off, or they can start over if they want to review.”

Most of the courses are taught using text displayed on a computer monitor.  Typically, students read a short passage of material and then answer a multiple-choice question before continuing with the lesson. But some of the courses also use audio, photos, animation and group discussions.

IDOC’s training and development manager, Gary Charland, says Elevate will take much of the hassle and expense out of training. Currently, staff members must wait till the class they need is offered and sometimes must travel out of town to attend. That can mean time away from families, scheduling headaches for facilities and big expenses for the department.

Elevate will cost IDOC about $36.00 a year per employee. Charland says that’s a bargain when you consider how much the department currently spends on training-related travel costs alone. He figures the program will pay for itself in just one month.

Elevate is also expected to reduce much of the clerical work associated with training programs. The entire training process, from enrollment to completion, will be paperless and automated. In addition to being more efficient, the system will help IDOC develop a database so administrators can determine how specific training programs effect the department’s performance measures and identify where additional training resources are needed.

“We are taking a substantial leap forward,” Charland says. “The system that we’re getting is taking us into the future and is state of the art, cutting edge.”

IDOC’s current system, known as TAS (Training Administration System), was developed about 15 years ago by an IDOC intern and only offers scheduling and record-keeping functions. TAS does not offer interactive training.

Elevate will also help employees plan their careers. Charland says his team is developing a system of “career paths”  for just about every position in the department that will show what courses employees should take to be eligible for promotion.

“If you’re a financial tech that wants to go to specialist, you’ll be able to see what you need to learn in order to develop the skills to proceed to the next level,” Charland says.

A similar function will spell out annual mandatory training requirements for every position in the department. Braseth predicts staff will like the new online format.

“We normally schedule a one-hour to one-and-a-half-hour classroom training. That officer has to be taken off the schedule which means another officer has to replace him or they’re coming in on their day off. By doing this, they can complete their annual training requirement in an interactive, online format in approximately 15 to 20 minutes,” Braseth says. 

Many of the courses are already approved by the American Correctional Association and the National Institute of Corrections. Charland says IDOC will ask the Peace Officers Standards Training Academy to recognize some of the courses. That would allow eligible IDOC employees to use Elevate to help maintain their law enforcement status and pursue advanced POST certifications.

IDOC administrators will also have the ability to use Elevate to create customized training programs for individual work groups. IDOC’s Management Services Division has already started exploring the possibility of using Elevate to help the division’s staff members better understand specific functions of the department’s information technology and fiscal operations.

“There are a lot of tools that really empower the employee,” Braseth says. “Instead of someone saying ’Do this,’ it is kind of a paradigm shift… giving (you) these tools for you to do your job better, or if you want to go further.”

But Elevate does not mean IDOC is abandoning traditional learning methods. Braseth says some subjects are best taught face to face and those programs will continue.

“We know not everyone is going to love an online format, but we do see Elevate as another tool that we can provide our employees for those opportunities that they don’t have now,” Braseth says.













Story published: 09/22/2011
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