Thursday, June 10, 2010

DEP wetlands training video available on DEP website

I have received comments that folks are frustrated by the lack of training material available online. Good news for those of you wishing to view the DEP training video which covers introductory legal topics as part of the DEP training. It is available online on the DEP website. I spent too much time not finding it. I went to the DEP wetlands homepage and looked under "Training for wetlands agencies" and then under "Resources and References." After I had clicked on all of the links, I broke down and called Darcy Winther at DEP. She kindly pointed out that it is on the homepage itself in the middle of the text. The video can be viewed here.

You can now watch the training video in the privacy of your own home. You can be multi-tasking, watching the video on your laptop, ipad, or netbook, while watching a game on tv. You can simultaneously be texting, talking or washing the dishes (does anyone multi-task to do household chores?) And therein lies the problem. There is no quality control to the environment in which self-training can occur. As someone who helped DEP develop the legal training for wetlands agencies in 1990 and as a trainer throughout my tenure at the Attorney General's Office (2006) and to date through CACIWC and the CT Bar Association, I continue to believe that the most important portion of any training time is the Q & A period. It's immaterial to me whether Q & A is interspersed with the training or held at the end. But if the trainer doesn't have any feedback on how the participants are understanding the materials, then neither do the participants.

I'm all for use of the video to reinforce training. Especially since it covers the introductory concepts. Is it your first time on any kind of regulatory agency? You might need to hear more than once the kinds of conduct that are illegal as a commission member. I've heard Steve Tessitore, the DEP municipal liaison to wetlands agencies, state on numerous occasions, that members need to hear a topic 7 times before they can change how they act. If the video is available whenever a member has a question and if it answers the member's precise question, that's great. Then the video can be repetitions #2 through #7, speeding up the learning curve. The Q & A of a training session is an opportunity to ask any question without knowing the answer. The alternative can bring dire results: members take an action on someone's application that is simply wrong, because they didn't have an opportunity to ask someone how to proceed.

If there is a serious push to allow review of visual or printed materials online as a substitute for attendance at training courses, I think testing should become a component of the self-education process. How else would the agency member or DEP know whether the material was being absorbed? Steve Tessitore was quite adamant in opposing a testing system, noting how it would tax the DEP, etc.

Complement not substitute. The video is a useful adjunct in the ongoing process of becoming a trained wetlands agency member. It is not a stand-alone tool.

In the next post I'll highlight the problem of relying on written materials, by examining some of the material posted on the DEP website for training that occurred this spring.

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