Program Planning


            At the Safety Codes Council (SCC) technological innovation for learning still relies heavily on the advances of Johannes Gutenberg; the training is heavily print-based correspondence. The SCC has a desire to enrich student learning beyond existing methods through the use of technology-mediated learning (TML). TML as examined here includes, “computing, communication, and data management technologies” (Alavi & Leider, 2001). A large-scale shift in the program requires careful planning. Even the most cautious and well-established plan will have roadblocks and people-related problems (Caffarella, 2002, p.15). Caffarella’s (2002) Interactive Model of Program Planning helps to navigate the perils of the planning process (pp.15-21). Further, the planning discussed here is informed by Caffarella’s (2002) planning checklist (pp. 2-22[JA1] )                          

                                                            Discerning the context

            Training at the SCC began as a mandate by the Safety Codes Act (1993) to train Safety Codes Officers (SCOs) in nine disciplines. Whereas a technical institute such as SAIT boasts a headcount of 25,600 students, 17,121 of which are full-time learners and 8478 are part-time (SAIT, 2012). The SCC has 3753 people listed as certified SCOs; of those 1438 are certified in more than one discipline (Lough, October 29 2012, personal communication). In 2002, the SCC conducted a needs assessment to assist with strategic planning for both learner’s needs and delivery mode preferences. [JA2] The assessment included, “a context review of relevant literature, interviews with 13 internal and 3 external stakeholders, a telephone and online survey of 518 current SCOs” (SCC, 2002). Online learning was explored as a delivery method for SCC distance education courses.[JA3]  Tooth (2001) states the goal of distance learning is to, provide, “remote students with a quality of instruction as close as possible to that enjoyed by those students attending classes” (p.1). Distance learning using technology can create enriched training.

            However, there have been prior attempts at implementing TML at the SCC in the form of computer-managed-learning by way of instructional CD-ROMS and WebCT, a learning management system (LMS). In 2001, the Chair of the Coordinating Committee stated, “technology is being used to provide efficient, cost effective courses that allow participants to train at home while working” (SCC, 2001, p.4). A year later WebCT was judged unsuccessful due to low student enrollment. The initial attempt to move online may have been either too early, or the planning was not thorough enough to ensure success.[JA4]  The SCC was not alone in having trouble implementing TML, Zilenski (2000) details anecdotal experiences about managers attempting TML only to be faced with attrition rates as high as 80% (p.66). However, Zilenski’s examples were drawn from courses that were not mandatory while the courses offered at the SCC are essential for a SCO to maintain his or her certification.

                                                Building a solid base of support

            Support from learners will be gained by asking previous learners to assist with the development of the material and aid in finding new participants (Caffarella, 2002, p.86).  Cervero & Wilson (1996) assert the structure and content of a program will depend largely on the interests of those who construct the material, and planners have a responsibility to determine whose interests and power negotiations are included (p.92). At the SCC, all of the subject-matter experts (SME) hired have taken the courses required for SCO certification. These experts are usually high-ranking, senior officers who have not performed fieldwork for sometime, but have contacts with individuals who are actively performing inspections. Focus groups are created with students, and volunteers from the relevant sub-councils, municipalities, agencies, and representatives from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs[JA5] . This ensures all stakeholders are represented as recommended by Sork (2010): Everyone involved in a program plan will expect to have their viewpoints considered (p.158). Additionally, the issue of accessibility, not only physically but also intellectually, must be considered during the planning process (pg.158). Bates & Sangra (2011) remind planners that projects, “worked best when they were part of a more general strategy for technology implementations” (p.110) and a solid base of support should be built around the existence of strong pedagogy. Govindasamy (2001) writes, “most of the pedagogical practices that apply to the traditional classroom delivery methods also apply to e-learning” (para.4).  
[JA6]                                           Identifying program ideas

            When looking to implement technologies such as an LMS system it is not necessary to be groundbreaking, you can stand on the shoulders of those who have come before. However, Caffarella (2002) asserts that while ideas may be borrowed, that is not always best practice. “Observations,” “hunches,” and  “a highly structured needs assessments” are also valid methods (p.113). The SCC did elect to perform a formal needs assessment in the early phases of planning the program.
                                                Sorting and prioritizing program ideas

            Many of the ideas in the needs assessment have now been explored. [JA8] For example, student input called for more graphics in the learning material. In response the SCC has hired a multimedia developer to assist with the creation of educational graphics. Prioritization of ideas is assigned by group discussion. The people included in the initial stages are the manager of training, training development coordinator, and training delivery coordinator. First, the ideas from the needs assessment are examined for their appropriate fit in either the “educational programming pile or the alternative interventions pile” (Caffarella, 2002, p.137). In some instances “formal education and training programs…will not solve the problems and issues presented” (Caffarella, 2002, p.137). The approach to prioritizing is qualitative and uses in-depth discussions in meetings, and finally a brainstorming session to clarify essential criteria.


                                                Developing program objectives
            The education and training department of the SCC seeks to promote a safer Alberta by providing enhanced training to SCOs in a way that positions the SCC as an innovative organization[JA10]  (SCC, 2012, pp.9-13). An instructional designers, usually and external contractor develops the “learning goals” (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p.77), based upon the needs assessment. For the implementation of an LMS this will determine the number of modules required and provide a rough layout of the course. Smith & Ragan (2005) explain that although, “declarative language learning is sometimes disparaged as mere rote memorization…it is the substance of much of our thinking” (p.152).  Since the primary objective of the courses [JA11] are the ability for SCOs to apply their code knowledge on an inspection site, the objectives are formed with rote memorization as a desired outcome.

                                                Designing instructional plans

            The types of learning for the SCC follows the task analysis system laid out by Bloom (1956) and includes types of taxonomy within the domain of cognitive abilities including recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The organization of the lessons follows a simplistic and effective plan[JA12]  laid out by Smith & Ragan (2005):

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Assessment

            Technological advances in the instructional plans include the use of audio and video conferencing for the instruction of the verbal communication course as well as the introduction to the safety codes system. The SCC is also developing computer-based simulations. A meta-analysis by Vogels et al., (2006) determined a variety of research results, “yielded significantly higher cognitive gains and better attitudes towards learning for subjects utilizing interactive games or simulations compared to those using traditional teaching methods for instruction” (p.235).  

            Each sub-council at the SCC mandates whether an assessment is necessary for each course. The assessments are commonly in the form of multiple-choice questions[JA13] . “The multiple-choice format was found to yield equivalent reliability and validity in a shorter amount of test-taking time” (Bacon, 2003, p.31). There is a lack of technical expertise at the council and so to allow for tests to be meaningful they are created by a SME and vetted by a panel of experts. The multiple-choice format is now so well respected among researchers in educational testing that the majority of highly regarded tests used in the United States use this format, including the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the American College Test, and the Graduate Management Admission Test (Bacon, 2003, p.32). At the SCC assessment questions are inputted into testing software called Questionmark Perception. The assessment is an open book format to foster “self-assessment and reflection during the testing process” (Nicol, 2007, p.56). To combat the pitfalls of multiple-choice testing and avoid simply the rote memorization of facts students rate their confidence in having selected the correct answer, “by having to rate their confidence students are forced to reflect on the soundness of their answer and assess their own reasoning” “Secondly, regular use of this procedure both formatively and in the final examinations increases students’ confidence in their knowledge” (Nicol, 2007, p.58[JA14] ).

                                                Devising transfer of learning plans
            According to Smith & Ragan (2005) the process of transferring knowledge can be enhanced by providing learners with opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in real life situations (p.138). An LMS system can house modules that provide a game or simulation of an inspection site that allows students to practice their skills[JA15] . With training the expectation is that, “both sponsoring organizations and participants are asking for outcomes that are applicable, practical, and make a difference” (Caffarella, 2002, p.209). Employers of SCOs expect that after taking SCC training they will have a worker who is able to perform inspections. “The primary transfer task for learning declarative knowledge is the ability to draw correct inferences from the information (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p.138). Caffarella (2002) reminds planners that many people require assistance to reflect on changes that they must make before what they have learned can move into a concrete experience (p.209). An alternative intervention to training is a break-out session at the SCC annual conference.
[JA16]  Figure 2. Age Ranges of SCOs. Information adapted from SCO Retention and Research Report 2012.
 “Personal dynamics and communication between source and receiver can make or break the transfer of knowledge, especially between generations” (Piktialis, & Greenes, 2008, p.9). As illustrated in Figure 2 there is a large discrepancy in the ages of SCOs and so technological implementation needs to consider this age gap.

                                                Formulating evaluation plans

            Quality development and delivery of training material depends on consistent and regular evaluation[JA17] . Feedback for all SCC programs is collected via a paper survey distributed to students on completion of the course. Admin staff collects informal feedback by phone calls or emails from students. A move to a LMS system and online survey software will allow for student feedback to be delivered automatically[JA18] . The feedback assists in:

  • Determining student satisfaction.
  • Allowing the students to assist in creating material that is more accurate (they point out errors that are reviewed by SMEs).  
  • Justification to the organization that allows for delivery in-line with the mode that students expect such as online learning, or classroom learning.

There are additional measures that facilitate the ongoing evaluation process:  The material is re-evaluated at every code update cycle (3-5 years) to include new information and dispose of information that is no longer accurate. SME staff is hired on a contract basis to review the material. GoToMeeting software is used for meetings with members who are geographically distant. This reduces travel expenses, and saves time.

                                    Making recommendations and communicating results

            In keeping with Caffarella’s (2002) recommendations the reports are simple and direct with the focus on what has occurred and next steps (pp.271-272). The Partner’s newsletter mentioned is distributed to all interested partners of the safety system, municipalities, Government of Alberta, etc., as well as any member of the public who signs up on the SCC website. The communications and stakeholder-relations area of the SCC distributes all external communication[JA19] .


Table 1[JA20] 

Based upon Caffarella’s (2002) distributing results to stakeholders (pp.275-279).

Students Staff Instructors Public
Formal quarterly report to the Coordinating Committee Article in Partner’s newsletter, email notifications, and messages on the website Briefing sessions, Partner’s newsletter Journalistic style of report for instructors distributed through email, Partner’s newsletter Partner’s newsletter




                                    Selecting formats, schedules and staff needs

            In my experience using technology for learning, it is important to ensure that the front-end staff has received training and is comfortable with any new technology. Bates & Sangra (2012) remind planners, “the successful integration of technology requires daily and continuous attention throughout the organization” (p.104). Program staff is both internal and external personnel. At the SCC SMEs, instructors, and exam-bank facilitators hired for, “expertise, short-term expansion of staff, opportunities for internal staff to learn new skills and competencies (Caffarella, 2002, p.297). Program format for training is individual learning [JA21] due to the need for students to begin at various times throughout the year. The SCC incorporates existing practices that follow Caffarella’s (2002) descriptions of program formats: The interactive tutorial, where a student has an advisor to answer technical questions in a program that is otherwise self-directed learning (p.288). An LMS system will allow for the material to be accessible to students online at anytime, and the decrease of printed materials allows for the SCC to potentially lower costs to learners.[JA22]  The use of Open Source software like Moodle does cost for[JA23]  the implementation and customization but with no licensing fees or printing and binding costs it “offers a cost-efficient strategy for education…open source and free technology could enhance the quality and accessibility of teaching and learning” (Bird et al., 2010, p.3).

                                    Preparing budgets and marketing plans
            Marketing plans are developed by the communications department of the SCC and the associated costs are withdrawn from their budget. SCC training services a, “niche market” where there is, “unique content areas and ways of offering programs” (Caffarella, 2002, p.317). Caffarella (2002) states that planners should have a good understanding of their funding sources, as well as the policies and regulations that govern each stream of revenue (p. 311). At the SCC there is a fee for each course that a SCO would need to take to maintain certification. The tuition is cost-recovery of the learning materials including printing, delivery, administrative staff, and an advisor. Funding for the training development is gathered from a levy structure: Accredited agencies or municipalities collect money for the levy of assessments on the application of a permit (Safety Codes Act, 2002, p 14). During budget planning, the training department will meet to compile a business case for any technologies needed in the upcoming year.

                                    Coordinating facilities and on-site events

            Because online learning is often selected as a learning mode to improve access and increase the opportunity for students to learn, facilities will not be as much of a concern as online accessibility.[JA25]  The LMS selected should accommodate the largest percentage of learners possible.



The Lebanese-American essayist Nassem Nicholas Taleb writes that “The four most influential moderns: Darwin, Marx, Freud, and (the productive) Einstein were scholars but not academics. It has always been hard to do genuine, and non perishable work, within institutions.”  The SCC is just beginning to use TML to provide students with enriched distance education. More significantly, the SCC seeks to create training that is accessible to all SCOs at a low cost. The plan for TML as laid out here will improve learning for students, and thus benefit the safety codes system, and the public.


Alavi, M., & Leidner, D. E. (2001). Research commentary: Technology-mediated Learning–A     call for greater depth and breadth of research. Information Systems Research, 12(1).

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Bates, A. W. (Tony), & Sangrà, A. (2011).  Managing technology in higher education: Strategies for transforming teaching and learning.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bird, C. D., Cooper, S. P., Fayed, R. M., Fortier, M. L., Galiatsatos, L. M., & Garcia, W. (2010).             Cardiology Fellowship Training Program.

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         Govindasamy, T. (2001). Successful implementation of e-Learning: Pedagogical considerations.   The Internet and Higher Education, 4(3–4), 287–299. doi:10.1016/S1096-     7516(01)00071-9

Nicol, D. (2007). E‐assessment by design: using multiple‐choice tests to good effect. Journal of              Further and Higher Education, 31(1), 53–64. doi:10.1080/0309877060116792

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 [JA1]Your introduction outlines what you are proposing to do effectively.

 [JA2]10 years old, is this still relevant?

 [JA3]Explored? How?

 [JA4]Good points.

 [JA5]Will be or are?

 [JA6]These are all interesting and relevant, but it would be good to see how they relate specifically to your program plan.

 [JA7]Yes, and was this effective and relevant? Do you now need to make additional recommendations?

 [JA8]Are you discussing the 2002 needs analysis? What about what is currently needed, how would things change?

 [JA9]While your content in this section is interesting, you need to be clear in identifying the objective and then analyze what exists (if the objective is already developed) – is it appropriate, is it missing any key element?

 [JA10]Is this the program objective?

 [JA11]Courses or program?

 [JA12]How about the course content? Are all the courses the same, are all the lessons the same, does the pedagogy match the content and the learning outcomes?

 [JA13]Is this appropriate?

 [JA14]In this section, you should discuss the relevance of the assessment – ask questions such as should it be formative, summative, does it align with the learning outcomes etc.

 [JA15]Is this what you are proposing?

 [JA16]More detail on this would be needed to determine if it is an appropriate ToL method.



 [JA19]How are success/failures determined and what happens to the failures?





 [JA24]What are the additional costs, revenues expected from changing the program? Are there other ways to reach the “audience”. As well as documenting the process, you should analyze and add to it.

 [JA25]Yes, good point. Have you considered disabilities? What about developing a positive climate – how will this be done?