When I first entered our profession, safety training was simple. Someone would stand in front of a class, wave an OSHA standard around and say, “This is what you must do to keep your companies from being fined.” Then the instructor would proceed to discuss the standard line by line. What a boring and ineffective method of providing training and education. Fortunately, adult learning and training methods have changed a lot since then.

Earlier this year, ASSE’s board of directors identified professional development as one of the Society’s strategic initiatives. We adopted the theme of “reimagining education” as a means of implementing that strategy.

Over the coming year, ASSE’s continuing education courses will evolve. We will continue to deliver the high-quality information you are accustomed to receiving while adding to the variety, content and applicability of our offerings to better meet your diverse knowledge needs. But beyond the programs themselves, ASSE’s entire learning ecosystem is changing. This new learning ecosystem encompasses three main elements: 1) formal learning (e.g., certificate programs, annual conference); 2) informal learning (e.g., microlearning modules, focused content); and 3) social learning (shared experiences from other ASSE members).

Our ultimate goal is to empower you to take charge of your career development by giving you one place to go for all of your learning needs. Let’s take a closer look at each component of this reimagined learning ecosystem.

Formal Learning

Central to this new vision for ASSE’s continuing education is how it will affect the Society’s formal learning offerings. Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ASSE’s certificate programs already embrace this idea by focusing on helping attendees gain comprehensive knowledge and skills around a particular topic such as risk assessment or ISO 45001. We will continue to incorporate more experiential learning opportunities into these programs while relying less on “sage on the stage” lecture. All of these courses will be designed to be offered in person, online or on site. Our formal learning events will also incorporate some social learning activities, such as a link to a discussion board where attendees can share what they know and engage in professional conversations that advance understanding about a topic. 

Informal Learning

Being in a dynamic field such as safety also means we often must learn on the go. For example, have you ever searched YouTube for a video that shows how to repair a car or address a plumbing issue? You likely wanted a short video on a specific task, such as how to replace a brake pad or fix a leaky faucet, not a 2-hour video on the essentials of brake repair or household plumbing maintenance. The same is true for issues we face on the job. Sometimes we simply need a just-in-time resource that is short and to the point.

That is what microlearning is all about and it is another key step in the evolution of our continuing education. Over time, ASSE will develop a catalog of micromessages that cover one specific objective in less than 5 minutes. Each micromessage will also incorporate a forum (more social learning) through which others can share their knowledge.

Social Learning

This leads us to social learning, which  can take many forms—from an online discussion to sharing your expertise on your member profile. The social aspect of learning is so important because it ties directly to a fundamental principle of adult learning theory: the idea that we all have knowledge and experiences to share. As you can see, social learning is not a standalone element. It is becoming an integral part of nearly all ASSE learning modes. 

I am excited about these developments, not only about reimagining ASSE’s education opportunities for the future, but also about participating in them today. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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