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Online Training for 911 Call Center Infuses a Multimedia Experience

The Snohomish County, Wash., 911 center adopted an online training tool that can integrate multiple forms of media into a course.

Traditional employee training often involves sitting in a classroom and taking quizzes on the course material after an instructor provides a lesson. To avoid pulling employees into a classroom during work hours, training administrators at the Snohomish County, Wash., 911 call center (SNOPAC 911) enlisted the assistance of a Web-based training system.

SNOPAC is a regional, consolidated emergency communications center that provides 911 and dispatching services to 39 public safety agencies in Snohomish County where 630,000 incidents are handled every year. It’s one of the largest 911 centers in Washington state and covers nearly 80 percent of Snohomish’s geography, said Kurt Mills, SNOPAC’s executive director.

As a round-the-clock operation, SNOPAC employees are required to participate in continued education with training that covers anything from a policy change to a refresher course on flood operations, said Operation Coordinator Crystal Ayco. To veer away from traditional classroom-based training, the center deployed Mindflash, a platform that allows administrators to create online training courses. Employees receive a link via email to the training course and access it using a secure, personal login.

Ayco said she uses the platform to create courses that integrate Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Quizzes can be incorporated into a course with automated grading that alerts the course administrators about whether a student passed or failed.

Other forms of media like photos, links to YouTube videos and audio clips can be integrated into the courses, Ayco said. For example, when a policy changes on how police dispatchers handle a felony stop (a high-risk situation for officers), employees may need to be quizzed on the update. Through the media in the online course, students can get a visual example of how the policy has changed.

“Being able to show [employees] a YouTube video of what it looks like for an officer to conduct a felony stop would be a helpful visual for them,” Ayco said. “It’s more than just, ‘Here’s the policy change.’”

Since deploying the platform about two and a half years ago, SNOPAC administrators have created nearly 50 online training courses, most of which have 15 to 30 minutes worth of reading material, Ayco said. All SNOPAC employees take the online courses through Mindflash, and since they are archived, new hires can access those same classes. Depending on an employee’s job description, administrators can send course material that caters to the type of training the individual needs.

When SNOPAC first deployed Mindflash, Ayco said administrators dealt with the challenge of having too much material in a single online course. After some trial and error, they scaled back the material into more digestible, user-friendly amounts.

Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.