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.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Integrated Pest Management Seminar Nov 5

This year's Fall Integrated Pest Management Seminar will be held November 5 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center on Coit Road in north Dallas.  Registration is online and can be accessed by clicking here.

This year we are especially pleased to have two guest speakers coming from College Station: Dr. Kevin Ong and Mr. Mark Dyks.  In his role as director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, Dr. Ong is at the center of the maelstorm involving new and emerging plant disease problems.  He'll bring us up to date on what to look for and available treatment options.

This may be the last Fall Pest Management Seminar held in the
venerable Pavilion building (Building C).  Construction is
expected to begin on a new Research and Extension building in
2016.  Goodbye to those good old yellow chairs!
Mark Dyks is the new(ish) Chief Apiary Inspector for the Texas Apiary Inspection Service housed outside the main campus at Texas A&M University.  He will be talking honey bees and what steps we can take to protect them from pesticides and other risk factors in the urban landscape.

In addition, our own Janet Hurley will bring updates about changes to pesticide rules in Texas and on the national scene; Dr. Matt Elmore will share exciting news about new turf varieties and how they might influence weed management in the future; and I will speak about aspects of ant management and the prospects for new ant pests on the horizon.

If you haven't been to one of our workshops before, we offer 5 CEUs for both TDA and Structural Pest Control Service license holders. We tend to focus on pest management in turf and ornamental plantings, though structural pest control professionals can get their Pest, L&O, and Weed CEUs here as well.

All of our attendees have grown used to the Pavilion facilities at the Dallas Center.  And every fall and spring we get asked when we will replace the hard yellow fiberglass chairs for something more comfortable.  I can't really answer that question, but this may be our last big event in the concrete-floored building with the uncomfortable seating.  A new Research and extension facility is in the works, and with it possibly more comfortable seating options.  Personally, I've grown to love the old building and will be a little sad to see it go.

This is the first workshop we've had since our spring 2015 event that was preceded by bad weather.  If you were among those who registered but were unable to attend, we've got something for you!  Conference Services has arranged to have your registration fees applied to the Fall Seminar.  You should be receiving an email shortly from that office asking you to confirm your attendance this fall.

We look forward to seeing you, our fall friends, in a few weeks.  Because of the short notice, we ask that you register quickly.  We want to save you a yellow chair.