Points for Online Training
In this post, we will provide some insight on awarding points for self-directed, online training. In other words, training that is not interactive with an instructor or moderator, but an e-learning course that can be taken at the pace of the individual. The online course may include intermittent quizzes to ensure the individual is learning the material, but it is not interactive in that there is a live presenter, or a moderator/facilitator such as in the case with the mandated sexual harassment training. There are many outlets for firefighters to access this type of training, including insurance companies that provide training platforms to their clients and subscription-based e-training solutions that departments can purchase for their membership.
The answers provided in this post are not legal advice, and we suggest forwarding this post to your attorney before implementing any changes locally in response to this post. We view the information provided as best practices and not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach. There are usually specific facts and circumstances within each fire department that should be considered, which is why involving your local attorney is critical when addressing any LOSAP point system issue.
The LOSAP point system includes two categories that are similar, but not the same – Training Courses and Drills. We’ve covered both of these categories in previous posts, which can be read by clicking the provided links. For the purposes of this post, we are assuming two basic rules regarding a Training Course:
With this in mind, here are three questions that often arise regarding LOSAP points for self-directed online training:
What if the course is under one hour? The statute provides that a Training Course of under twenty hours in duration is one point per hour, up to a maximum of five points. A strict reading of the statute would seem to indicate that a Training Course that lasts less than one hour would not be eligible for a point. One suggestion could be to create a “training cocktail” to combine more than one shorter duration course into one package that lasts at least one hour. Say, combining three twenty-minute courses into one package, for which a firefighter would earn one point for completing all three.
Can a firefighter take every Training Course in the catalog to earn points? Based on the Comptroller’s legal opinion, all Training Courses must be approved by the chief or board of fire commissioners. Therefore, a list of approved courses should be maintained and made available so firefighters know which courses can be taken to earn points. Since we don’t have experience with all of the training platforms, we don’t know how access to classes can be controlled internally. We are aware of at least one provider that gives administrative control to a chief or training officer that can activate only certain courses that are applicable to the operations of the specific department. If that is not available, having a pre-approved list of Training Courses is a good control to ensure firefighters are taking training that is applicable to the fire department operations.
Can points be awarded for training taken with another agency or employer? Generally, only activities of the fire department are eligible to earn points. Notable exceptions would be points for periods of line of duty disability or military leave. Otherwise, points can only be earned by an individual for activities of the fire department which would be covered by VFBL. Therefore, it would seem the best practice is not to award points for training taken with another agency or employer, even if that other organization uses the same e-training platform as the fire department. If that is the case, a suggestion for that firefighter would be to check with the other employer or agency to see if they would accept the training taken with the fire department.
Do you have other questions about online self-directed Training Courses? Leave a comment or contact us with questions.
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