The Office of Training and Workforce Development (OTWD)  continually seeks to better understand learners’ needs and, based on the responses, to implement best practices in educational training. With an eye toward innovation for Fiscal Year 2022, the organization’s leadership committed to being open to change.

“One silver lining of the pandemic is that it forced us all to be more introspective about what we do and how we do it,” says Charlene Armstrong, Workforce Institute Program Director. “We stepped back to look at what we do well and where there’s room for improvement. We developed a deeper understanding of our learners to grasp their needs, making necessary adjustments that included more detailed simulations, usability enhancements for online tools, continued progression of our evaluation method, and new equipment. These innovations will help to move our learners into a deeper understanding of the important information our courses contain.”


Learner and Facilitator Responses

Daniel Siford, Senior Facilitator with Learning Operations, states that his experience with the in-person pilot of the Include, Empower, Affirm: Policy, Best Practices And Guidance For Serving LGBTQAI+ Children And Youth Involved In The Child Welfare And Juvenile Justice System course included learners wearing masks and observing social distancing, and that all learners were fully invested in the training.

Updates made it easier for learners to navigate through Cornerstone, providing them a road map.

The Motivational Interviewing: Investigative Strategies (MII) course offers learners, including those from the NYPD and the Division of Child Protection (DCP), the opportunity to work through the life of a case. Daniel noted that some learners confronted their own biases, borne from work experience, to view a case less judgmentally. Learners were actively engaged, and the partnership will look to overcome some operational scheduling challenges to roll it out to more learners in coming years.

“There are benefits to the hybrid model that have allowed trainings to continue despite the world around us,” states JSA trainer Althea Cochran. The platform provides every learner to take the course and ingest the content in ways that allow for flexibility with their other duties, commitments and challenges, she acknowledges. “On the other hand, the in-person, tactile model works best for some.”

When asked about the reaction to the in-person simulations, Althea explained that learners reported feeling that this hands-on portion of the training is crucial, and they would like more of it. Overall, she beamed with pride that the hands-on portions of the JSA trainings, especially the simulations, are able to answer many of the learners’ questions, including “what-if” situations like encountering people who refuse to talk, extreme emotional reactions, or dogs in the home.

Enhancements and Their Functioning  

The Union Hall site in Queens and the 125th Street site in Manhattan offer in-person programming for learners from all five boroughs in classrooms rebuilt as part of a multi-million dollar state-of-the art renovation.

The Union Hall site features 27,000 square feet of training and simulation space, including ten classrooms, a mock courtroom, two simulation apartments, and a flexible simulation space. The 125th Street site features 4,000 square feet of training and simulation space, including two classrooms, a simulation apartment, and a flexible simulation space. Both spaces have advanced audiovisual equipment.

Learners, facilitators and other spectators attending classes in these state-of-the-art training facilities are treated to the innovative learning experiences. In fact, NBC’s News 4 New York  took their cameras inside to showcase the facilities.


Cornerstone Upgrades

In addition to improving the physical classrooms, OTWD increased the usability and standardization of Cornerstone, the online learning management system (LMS). Now, individual welcome pages are displayed based on a learner’s profile, with transcripts and training plans.

“It’s a different look and feel because each service has differing requirements,” explains Selina Johnson, Deputy Director of LMS Administration and Technology Management. “We found that the updates made it easier for learners to navigate through Cornerstone, providing them a road map to what they needed to complete for that fiscal year.”


Kirkpatrick Model

Another way OTWD delved deeper into understanding learners is the expansion of the evaluation method for courses to ensure knowledge gains are established and sustained. The evaluation team uses the Kirkpatrick model, which outlines four distinct levels of learning outcomes: Satisfaction (Level 1), Knowledge (Level 2), Application (Level 3), and Impact (Level 4).

Satisfaction checks are the degree to which learners find the training favorable, engaging, and relevant to their jobs.Knowledge checks are the degree to which learners acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in the training. In FY22, the evaluation team built upon the Level 1 evaluations to add Level 2 and prepared to implement Levels 3 and 4 down the line. Now, pre-and post-tests are administered for every Continuing Education learning program, to test knowledge prior to the training and knowledge acquired after taking the course.

One silver lining of the pandemic is that it forced
us all to be more introspective about what we do and how we do it.