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Sudbury's NORCAT is a leader in online training

Targeting a market through a visionary set of eyes put NORCAT’s eLearning department in the lead. What began as a modest health and safety program for local industry has morphed into a $1- to $1.
NORCAT training
Jason Bubba, general manager of NORCAT’s eLearning department, oversees the delivery and training of as many as 40,000 people annually through its online health and safety programs.

Targeting a market through a visionary set of eyes put NORCAT’s eLearning department in the lead.

What began as a modest health and safety program for local industry has morphed into a $1- to $1.5-million online training program in which approximately 36,000 to 40,000 people participate annually.

“We saw how it was going to be the way of the future and training on the Internet would be the most efficient method because it allows one to update the material across Canada with one resource,”

said Jason Bubba, general manager of NORCAT’s eLearning department.

As early as 1995, they were developing CD-based productions, which at that time was a novel introduction to the use of digital media to delivery consistent training. It didn’t take long before clients were attracted to the ease of using a computer for health and safety training and tracking.

The eLearning department began with a modest team of three people, which has grown to 10 during the last 15 years. Everything is done in house except for narrations. Although it is based in health and safety training, Bubba said they will put together custom programs, and will even develop the content, if requested.

The team developed and built all its learning management systems. Bubba explained that generic e-learning management systems exist, but cannot deliver what is required from a health and safety standpoint.

“They have to be secure systems,” he said, in order to track qualifications and ensure everyone is practicing their due diligence to fulfill government regulations.

NORCAT eLearning delivers and tracks the training, which is based on Canadian content. Technical support is available from Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Once registered, an easy-to-use log-on and clearly displayed prompts provide a user-friendly system.

Every program offers full narration accompanied by script, colourful visuals, testing, record keeping, and reports. Some programs have animations and offer interactive exercises.

Based upon adult learning principles, the recipient receives about four to five minutes of information.

Review questions then appear to keep the individual engaged. He or she cannot go further until the review question is answered correctly. A test is required at the end of the session, which is marked. The company determines the pass mark. If the person fails, he or she will take it again at no extra cost.

Incorrect answers are reviewed, even if the test was passed.

“When they go through our systems, it really is a turnkey solution for their health and safety training,” Bubba said.

Many companies will incorporate site-specific information into the mainstream training courses, such as showing the location of the eye-washing station at the work site. Company administrators can also log in at any time and see the training progress of its employees. As well, NORCAT eLearning has about a dozen resellers or authorized training partners around Canada.

The most popular health and safety programs are available for mining, forestry and the construction industries as well as general office training programs like WHMIS. Young employee training is also on the rise, particularly for co-op students or young people just entering the workforce, who may not know their rights. Presently, the training system is in more than 75 Ontario high schools.

Some work sites require contractors to have proof of training before entering the premises. Workers trained under NORCAT can use a wallet card or go to any computer or BlackBerry and search their records, as long as they have their NORCAT identification. All training is tracked and recorded in real time.

As computer and Internet technical capabilities evolve, Bubba anticipates the video content and graphics will improve.

Currently, an access control management system is being developed. This would implement controlled access of personnel based upon their health and safety training qualifications. At the same time, it will track a person’s location on the site.

To date, Bubba said they have received “excellent” feedback about the training programs, because it is a product with quality service and is convenient.

“Many have have said it is the best WHMIS they’ve ever sat through.”