In July 2012, FEMA's Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) incorporated electronic-based strategies in the classroom. By removing traditional paper course materials from approximately 40 percent of its courses, the CDP saves $100,000 on average a year in production costs.
"Technology allows the CDP to save money and focus that savings on training and infrastructure improvements," said Chuck Medley, assistant director of Training and Education. "It seems almost everyone today uses some form of advanced technology and incorporating enhancements in the classroom is not a new concept—universities and city schools are taking advantage as well. The CDP has adapted and set a pace to maintain a modern classroom and reduce printing and production costs."
A major challenge to incorporating electronic tablets and laptops was conversion of printed materials to electronic display. The curriculum staff has converted more than 20 courses that are now offered electronically in classes. According to Bernice Zaidel, director of Curriculum Development and Evaluation, it takes an employee up to two days to convert one course.
"Ultimately we will be 100 percent electronic in the classroom," said Zaidel. "But, it is not as easy as it sounds. We can't simply scan a lesson and immediately provide it to students. The manuals must have a professional appearance, be interactive, accessible to everyone through Section 508 Compliance, and undergo a rigorous test before it is offered electronically to our students."
Once the devices are ready, each one is dedicated to a specific student and distributed during the students' in-processing. CDP staff provides an overview of the devices' use and capability, to include technical support throughout the course. A key feature about the electronic tablets and laptop computers is the specially designed charging and programing carts, that allows the staff to charge and load 45 devices with the appropriate course material simultaneously.
"This is my second CDP course," said Hilde Perala, program manager of Emergency Preparedness for two Minnesota hospitals. "Technology is more common and used in our day-to-day business, so it was natural to have it available in the classroom and not have to carry a large binder. I could highlight directly on pages, take notes in the margins and email documents to myself. As the courses, evolve it would be nice to have videos used in class available on the devices, as well."
To avoid the spread of germs between students, each device is sanitized at the end of the course through a high-tech process called a Level C cleaning before it is issued to another student. The learning technologies are cleaned using micro-fiber wipes then Ultraviolent light completes the sanitization process.
"Adults learners expect an adult-learning environment," said Medley. "At the same time, as we prepare more courses for electronic display, we increase our savings from reduced production costs. These savings allow the CDP to focus dollars on maintenance, operations, and improvements to training areas."
The CDP hopes the use of electronics in training enhances adult learning and continues to reduce the amount of paper and other student materials commonly used in the classroom. CDP training is fully funded for tribal, state, and local response personnel. Round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging, and meals are provided at no cost to responders or their agency or jurisdiction. The CDP plays a leading role in preparing state, local and tribal responders to prepare for and respond to manmade events or major accidents involving mass casualties. To learn more about the Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit http://cdp.dhs.gov or call 866-213-9553. Visit the CDP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn