Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Training site has big ambitions

I just had the opportunity to check out the new distance learning website sponsored by PCT magazine.  I think it offers a good training option for PMPs, and has tremendous potential as a way to ensure your technicians are familiar with labels of products used by your company.

Under the Find A Course pulldown window you have
the option to take any of over 25 different label modules.
According to the site's author, Stoy Hedges, the site became active last August and will be free to anyone for the first two years.  After that time, the site should have a good mix of vetted training courses, and PCT will begin charging a modest monthly fee in exchange for offering courses for CEU credit in your state.

Right now lessons simply consist of label review courses.  So for example, if you want to ensure that your technicians are familiar with the Bayer Suspend® Polyzone label, have them take the review course and exam.  A certificate they print out after completing the course provides proof that they have read the label (possibly several times) and have passed an exam to show comprehension over the label contents.

Eventually the course will expand to include most of the popular pesticide labels and other subject matter including the contents of the PCT field guide series.  Hedges envisions 40 courses alone based on the PCT Field Guide to Ants.

"We have 400 current subscribers; but there are 100,000 pest professionals out there that we want to reach," he said. Hedges designed the site for training new and experienced technicians, but the current label modules are a great way for any pesticide user to learn a new label or get a refresher course for an older product.  The reviews are so thorough that one user reported that after taking the class he better understood his own company's insecticide...for which he wrote the label!

Wave of the future?

It's yet to be seen whether this type of training format will come to dominate the way we do continuing education in the future.  Online courses are certainly not the same as having a human instructor. But it does offer rigor that is sometimes missing from a one-hour continuing education class.

In Texas the Structural Pest Control Service does not yet allow online training classes to substitute for face-to-face CEUs.  But this may slowly be changing.  The Structural Pest Control Advisory Committee last year gave favorable input to the idea of allowing online CEUs for PMPs at least every other year; however I notice the new regulations filed in the Texas Register on September 4 (and open for comment until October 18) did not address any rule changes in this regard.

No one has a bigger stake in face-to-face training than me and my colleagues. Our entomology department faculty offer CEU classes to thousands of applicators every year.  These classes provide us with a personal connection to the industry, not to mention some financial support for our programs. But we support online training, and don't see it as a threat to the many conferences and face-to-face classes we offer. I don't think any online course can fully replace sitting with trained experts sharing knowledge and personal experiences and answering questions in real time.  But I like the idea of allowing applicators to get CEUs online every other year as a nice compromise.  It would make getting CEUs quicker and more convenient for many who choose that technology, but would preserve face-to-face training.

For better or worse, the wheels of change can move very slowly in our state. Perhaps in two years, by the time the PCT site is up and fully running, Texas will catch up with the rest of the world.  Meantime, sites like the PCT Distance Learning Classroom provide a great way to hone your skills and make sure your technicians know pesticide labels as well as if they had helped write them.

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