Tag Archives: education

Try Out Our Stormwater Beta Class!

Rain Icon - Source: http://iconka.com)If you ask public works professionals what are the most common concerns or issues they handle in their community, you will probably hear stormwater or flooding mentioned. So when we thought about developing online courses related to public works, we decided to begin by creating one about this topic. The entire course is still in development, but we have several sessions completed. And now with the software we are using ready for a public release this summer, we believe we are ready to invite a group of beta testers in to try it out. There are no costs associated with taking any of the courses so if you think you might be interested in testing out this class, read on . . .

One of the exciting aspects of this course is the software which allows for quite a different experience than what is usually offered by more traditional online educational delivery systems. All courses are created in and managed through 3D GameLab – a quest-based learning platform (a screenshot of the interface is included later in this post). When you join the class you are entered into a group with other students of that course. Everyone's progress is tracked in the group tab of the class. As you proceed through each session, or quest, you gain points, and as you complete a series of tasks, rewards are earned to track your progress. Each session leading up to a reward builds on the material in the last one. 

So far, the classes we have ready in the Stormwater Course are shown below. And because stormwater and flooding are ongoing concerns for many, we expect to continue adding quest groups to the course over time.

Introductory Quest Group – at completion the student achieves the "Climateer" Level and badge

  • Welcome to Exploring DrainageClimateer Badge
  • When it Rains, It Pours
  • Take the Damage Tour
  • The Flood Lineup
  • The Role of Government

Government Liaison Quest Group – at completion the student achieves the title of Government Liaison and earns a badge

  • Government Liaison BadgeFlood Zones
  • Flood Maps
  • Flood Insurance
  • Designing for the Storm

Castle Steward Quest Group – at completion the student achieves the Castle Steward level and earns the related badge

This group is still in development with the grayed-out quests not yet ready:

  • The Lay of the LandCastle Steward Badge
  • Pump that Sump
  • Never Saw that Coming
  • The 500 Year Storm
  • Preparing for the Flood

So who should take this type of course? It is designed to offer information in a format that would be interesting and relevant to property owners, people interested in stormwater, and even engineers and others working in public works who are just getting started in working with stormwater. At this time the signup process will ask you to verify you are 18 years or older. We can accommodate people younger including classes of high school students; however, we would want to discuss the access process before setting up accounts to ensure we comply with FERPA and COPPA. 

Stormwater Class Screenshot

If you sign up to try it out, we would appreciate any feedback you have including ideas about how we can make the course better or ideas for other courses you would like to have us develop. At this time the class is limited to 60 people so if you are interested, make sure you sign up now with the form below to secure your spot!


Note: Thanks to http://iconka.com for the first image in this post


Creating a Great Class

Building on the last post, this one goes into more specific detail on what tools a teacher can make use of to create a great class. This means a class that is effective, attractive, and provides a clear path to completion. Rather than use words to convey this information, I made use of a tool I've tried out in the past: Glogster.




Making Adult Education Attractive

As adults we have so many things competing for our time – kids, work or school, significant others, hobbies, extended families, and friends. So even though there's an enormous amount of online learning material and educational opportunities the challenge is finding the time in our busy lives to take advantage of it all. And even if we make a decision to take a class, we might not maintain that commitment if the class does not meet our level of expectations. In order to keep us interested and carry us to a successful completion, a class needs to grab and maintain our attention, add value and meaning to our lives, and leave us with a sense of accomplishment.

Therfore, those who prepare classes for professionals in public works, engineering, or government need to:

Create classes that capture professional interest. Topics should be relevant to work-related challenges and tasks. I'd probably sign up for "Design and Construction of PVC Water Mains," but I am not going to sign up for "Preventing Blood Incompatibility Errors."

Sustain interest by designing class resources and course work to match the skills and learning type and ability level of professionals interested in that topic. A class for engineers about designing and constructing water main might offer a few modules that introduce and explain engineering formulas and theory for strength and hydraulics. The content and work required for this topic would meet the expectations and abilities of engineers. But these modules most likely would not interest a non-engineer who is tasked only with the installation of water main. That type of student probably would not be interested in reading or listening to engineering theory behind water main design and would not want to perform engineering calculations.

Provide a meaningful and personally relevant experience. Someone taking the time to go through a class will want to have a sense of accomplishment or achievement upon its completion. A course that walks an apprentice operator through the function and controls of a backhoe should prepare that person so upon its completion the operator can successfully understand and perform the functions taught in the class. If the class leaves them confused and unable to act upon or understand anything taught, the operator will perceive his time as wasted.

Course Design Requirements

So how can we use this information to improve our learning experiences? When we consider training for ourselves or for our staff, we can check to make sure the classes meet these three requirements. If it is not obvious from the course description, we can also ask past attendees or students if they felt a specific class held and sustained their interest and left them with a sense of accomplishment. And if we are delivering or creating classes in our field, we should be asking ourselves these questions throughout the process. In evaluations we can also ask students questions like: what could be changed to make the class more interesting and relevant? and what other activities or approaches might better hold your interest?





Hurricane: Preparedness and Response Training

Emergency Mgmt Institute 2012

There's a little known secret out there among emergency professionals – FEMA has an awesome training facility in Emmitsburg, Maryland where public works professionals working in local government can get free, high-quality emergency response training. In July of this year, I was fortunate enough to attend a week of training there and plan to share my experience at some point over the next week or so. But for now, I wanted to pass along a notice about an upcoming course to be held at that facility. This particular class will provide Preparedness and Response Training for Hurricanes. So if you get the chance, it is definitely worthwhile to attend or if you can't make it, send someone from your staff. Here are the details:


FEMA Emergency Management Institute

E905 – Integrated Emergency Management Course (IEMC):

Hurricane: Preparedness and Response

Course Date: 11 – 14 Feb, 2013

Course Description:

This IEMC addresses preparedness and response in emergency situations resulting from a hurricane. This exercise-based course is conducted for participants from communities throughout the country. The IEMC places public officials and other key community leaders in a disaster simulation. The course methodologies of classroom instruction, planning sessions, and exercises allow for structured decision making in an educational, yet realistic, environment. A key outcome of this IEMC is that additional planning needs are identified, providing the opportunity to enhance overall preparedness. The exercise scenario for IEMC: Hurricane Preparedness and Response focuses on evacuation issues prior to the simulated hurricane making landfall and response activities after landfall.

Target Audience:

The target audience for this course includes Emergency Operations Center (EOC) management personnel.  EOC management personnel include, but are not limited to, mayors, city/county managers, general counsel, community/county managers, emergency managers, fire/police/public safety chiefs, public works and public health managers, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) managers, community services providers, Private Industry, National Guard Members, and key EOC support staff.


National Emergency Training Center (NETC),  Emergency Management Institute,

Emmitsburg, Maryland.


To Apply:

Complete a FEMA Form 119-25-1, General Admissions Application ( http://training.fema.gov/EMICourses/  ) with a student signature and signature of supervisor or sponsoring agency official.  Submit the application through the State emergency management training office who will fax it to the NETC Admissions office at (301) 447-1658. netc-admissions@dhs.gov

There are no tuition fees for EMI on-campus or off-site courses. All instruction, course materials, and housing (for most participants) are provided at no cost. Participants from other countries, other Federal agencies, and most participants from private industry or contractors to State, local, or Tribal governments must pay their own transportation and lodging fees. All participants are responsible for the cost of cafe­teria meals provided and for personal, incidental expenses.

For additional information contact Doug Kahn, douglas.kahn@fema.dhs.gov  or http://training.fema.gov/EMI/ 


Public Works Puzzles

Lately I've been working on developing some educational coursework related to the public works field. Through this effort I've come across some interesting online tools that can be used for educational purposes. One of these tools, Jigzone, takes a photo and turns it into a jigsaw puzzle. As an example, I've started with one of my favorite photos of a roller compacting an asphalt pavement. If you like, you can try solving the puzzle by clicking the image below. And if you want to make your own puzzles, all you have to do is create a free account over on the Jigzone website. Because the site allows embedding of your puzzles on your own website, you can take photos of your community or your projects and embed them on your agency's website as a way to engage citizens.


Click to Mix and Solve


National Highway Institute Using Virtual Worlds for Bridge Training

Although this was posted over on Govloop, I thought I'd repost here because it is so relevant to the public works industry. For some time, we've been advocating for the use of virtual worlds for training, design, and networking in our industry. And now it seems there is finally a sign that the technology is not only being implemented, but also accepted. Although there have been some uses in the past that we've highlighted here in this blog, this time the class is being delivered by the National Highway Institute – a hallmark institution with a long history in the industry. And if the interview embedded below is any indication, it looks like the use of virtual worlds might quickly become a standard training method among engineers and other professionals in the industry. You can also check out and sign up for the NHI classes at this link: http://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov/about/innovationseries.aspx. It sounds like the bridge class will be ready to go in the near future.



Here's a link to the full interview: Meredith Perkins talks Virtual Worlds with Chris Dorobek