Learning Leader

Brad Bradley

I have known Brad since back to the day of the Distance Learning Coordinator. Great memories.

Brad is a former industrial chemist, Six Sigma Green Belt, and laboratory information technology site expert for Union Carbide and Dow Chemical Corporation.  He was also trained in audio/video and distance learning technologies, achieving his Certified Video Conferencing Engineer certificate.  He started with the Virginia Department of Health in 2008 as Distance Learning Coordinator and TRAIN Virginia administrator, later progressing to Public Health Preparedness Systems Manager, managing 11 systems.

Early on, Brad worked with PHF/KMI to help improve and simplify the performance of TRAIN.  Some of these projects include the first mobile TRAIN site, integrations with other learning management systems, and integrations with ESAR-VHP and other emergency preparedness systems.  Brad is an active participant in the YouTrack system, working with PHF/KMI and other affiliates on efficiency and problem issues perceived within TRAIN.

Brad is a percussionist, performing professionally for almost 40 years in symphonic, musical theater, and rock music environments.  He performed in the rock band THE 5:15 for several years, opening for such acts as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and The Goo Goo Dolls.  He also served as the musician’s union president in Charleston, WV during this time.  After moving to Virginia, Brad developed an interest in research into what some perceive as paranormal events, becoming the research coordinator for the Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation and publishing multiple papers on the subject in Academia.edu.


We all need reminding now and again

Course Completion Rates

We tend to monitor our course rosters more than most especially for our continuing education offerings and newly released interactive training modules that we build and publish through our Lectora Inspire Authorware. There is a lot of data available to us through a course roster.

One report we view regularly is the Export Roster report found under the Tools dropdown list. There are 88 data fields available to us to mine through and answer questions like, are we reaching our target audience. We look at the date/time stamps for start and completion. Today, I want to address steps we take to improve our completion rates.

We address completion rates in our course provider training. We walk them through the steps their Learners take to complete a Kentucky course. The steps are the same regardless if it is a live event and a web-based training. The Learner marks themselves complete, passes an Assessment (mandatory for all web-based courses, optional for a live event, but highly encouraged), completes the Evaluation (mandatory for all courses), and rates the course. We reinforce this process with our course providers offering live events by emailing them the week of their event.

Our Course Providers add this statement under the Registration Management section of the course build, Additional Provider Instructions. Once the Learner registers for a course they receive a TRAIN confirmation email that includes the completion steps.

Additional Provider Instructions

When the Course Provider builds their course, we have them add this information under the Introductory Text tab of the Evaluation build.

Evaluation Introductory Text tab

Under the Evaluation Final Page text, we have them add these additional instructions.

Evaluation Final Page tab

In the image above not all the text is visible. Here is the complete text we enter.

Evaluation Final Page tab complete text

I would love to hear from you how you address course completion rates.


New Year New Thoughts

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Greetings TRAIN family. I am going to switch up this blog series this year by adding TRAIN marketing ideas with the functionality of TRAIN features as I have been writing about all along. I am also hoping to introduce you to a cast of characters this year that are involved in TRAIN and eLearning and with that in mind, let me do something I should have done at the start of this blog.

I will be turning 61 this year. Shocked at how fast I got to that number. I am married and have two sons that are married. I have raised computer nerds, and both have jobs in the technology sector. I have talked about technology at home too much over the years and my wife has about every internet of things device you can imagine. I continuously mix everyone’s names up, Hey Alexa, Hey Google, Hey Trashcan. I should start a blog on talking to your appliances.

I thought I would tell you today about one of my most memorable TRAIN projects. The date was October 23, 2008. The project’s name, 50 states in 50 minutes. A little background first. I was introduced to the world of Polycom that year and how interactive television worked. It caught my attention and we went to work utilizing this technology. I will write about our Polycom experiences separately in another blog.

We were fresh off a Polycom demonstration slash preparedness exercise which I will go into more detail about that another time.  The gist of that project was we connected several state Governors and their preparedness folks and hosted a smallpox exercise using Polycom videoconferencing equipment. The program went off without a hitch.

Feeling froggy after that experience I came up with the idea of 50 states in 50 minutes. It was a simple idea of connecting every public health state office by videoconference for one hour and giving each state one minute to speak. Kentucky got 10 minutes. Those that did not have videoconference capabilities could connect by calling into the videoconference conference using their phones.

Our Governor’s office wanted to participate again, this time the Lieutenant Governor joined us. This was also a way for us to introduce TRAIN to all our State Health Department partners across the nation. During this time, we were working with a group of regional TRAIN coordinators that were promoting TRAIN to health departments in their assigned regions. All of them contributed to the growth of TRAIN throughout our Commonwealth. I picked up the phone and invited one coordinator to participate in our 50 states in 50 minutes program and asked that she talk about her experiences with TRAIN at the local health department level. She agreed, showed up that day with her father who proudly looked on as her daughter talked to the nation.

The program went off with very few technical issues and this is thanks to the hundreds of people behind the scenes at every state that made this happen. Did we reach 50 states, no, if I remember correctly about 39 states could connect and participate. This would be easily done today using our web-based tools, but we did not have access to Zoom, GoToWebinar in 2008. We had telephones and email.

I would love to hear about one of your most memorable experiences of TRAIN. Email me, let us talk.


Grouping structure Part 2

Kentucky TRAIN Grouping Structure

Our very first opportunity to use the grouping structure came about after a discussion with a local health department human resource manager. Local health departments require their employees to take seven to nine courses every year. In the early years, they would close the health department for a day, and seven to nine presenters would run through their PowerPoint presentations. Along came TRAIN.

We gathered up those seven to nine PowerPoints and lifted the best content from those slide decks and built interactive online modules delivered through TRAIN. Slowly the health departments adopted the online format and did away with the in-house PowerPoint presentations.

The first few years of the modules went okay. We kept busy taking calls from health department employees asking about the seven to nine course ID’s and just as many calls from human resource directors asking us who completed what modules for the current year.  This last issue got old quick, because the rosters for these courses were very large and required a lot of sorting by date and organization (LHD).  We found a better way.

The end of this fun came one November afternoon during a call with a local health department Human Resources Manager. It was a funny conversation looking back but not funny to the person on the other end of the phone. She had been asking the employees for the last few years to bring her their seven to nine TRAIN certificates each year that she would place in their file. She was very upset for she was having to place an order for a file cabinet and had no place in her office for another file cabinet. She stated, “there has to be a better way.”

The TRAIN Training Plan feature was the better way, but it requires a little bit of regular attention for it to work well.

The first item that needed attention was assuring each employee was in the right TRAIN Group. Each local health department has its Group within TRAIN. For some health departments, this was an easy process, but for others, this took months to accomplish. Ongoing, the health departments need to assure new employees were added to the correct Group, and employees leaving the health department needed to select an updated Group. In the case of employees leaving that did not change their Group, we change it for them. Health departments have created their own workflows and have had phenomenal success with this feature.

It is interesting to learn over the years how many people do not realize they take their TRAIN account with them when they leave employment. So many of them will create a new account with their new employer and will lose access over time to their old accounts for they forget the login and password and the password retrieval will not work for them because TRAIN is sending an email to an old work email address the no longer have access to.

We also experience a situation where Human Resource Directors will deactivate an individual’s account when they part ways. It has been an ongoing education process for us.

The next way we have used the Group structure is for messaging on the home page of TRAIN. Since all our local health departments are arranged under a root folder named Local Health Departments, we can select that root folder and post messages that appear under Announcements on the TRAIN page. This has been very useful in the past when Local Health Department employees log in to their TRAIN accounts they take notice of the customized message. This has been particularly for announcing Kentucky specific COVID-19 training. Non-Local Health Department employees log in to TRAIN and they do not see the message. We do the same for our Course Providers.

Lastly, State Program people manage their training curriculum similarly as the Local Health Department Human Resource folks manage their annual training.

There are countless ways the Group structure is used, and many times is a source of issue for you when certain courses are not visible, as well as assessments and evaluations, are not available to Learners.

For reference here is a partial list of annual courses are Local Health Departments pick and choose from:

Annual Training

The grouping structure touches all parts of TRAIN and its application can be overlooked at times. I encourage you to look at your structures and ways you might use them differently than you currently do.


Grouping Structure

Photo by Afta Putta Gunawan on Pexels.com

I remember the day the Kentucky TRAIN Group structure was due like it was yesterday. I met Chris Day (TRAIN Director at that time) in a coffee shop near where we both lived. It was 2003, TRAIN was relatively new, and preparations were underway to ready our public health workforce to be able to vaccinate the entire Commonwealth within 72 hours against smallpox.

Events were different in the early 2000s. Anthrax and the threat of smallpox coming by way of individuals flying into the United States were on our minds. Local Health Departments found themselves partnering, some for the first time, with police and fire readying for smallpox and chemical warfare.

Also, keep in mind, TRAIN was newly released on the heels of the Health Alert Network (HAN) where the HAN system could call into action 1,000’s of people to man their posts. TRAIN assured these responders were prepared for the duties asked of them.  

In this mindset, back to the coffee shop and the conversation around building Kentucky’s Grouping Structure. On that day, the structure was due, we settled on a very small TRAIN Grouping structure that included a small number of groups. We had a group for the State Health Department, Local Health Department, Police, Fire, EMS, Hospitals, and a small smattering of sub-groups.

We ran with that grouping structure for a few years, until about the time the Training Plan feature was released.  We also learned we could message groups on the TRAIN Homepage via the grouping structure, but our structure was not refined enough to do specific messages. Also, at that time Kentucky took a different marketing approach than most other affiliates.

Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels.com

Remember, TRAIN came about out of the preparedness needs of the states, and most affiliates at that time kept TRAIN within their preparedness branches. We felt at that time if TRAIN was to have any longevity it needed to be used by all the programs in the health department as well as our partners outside of Public Health including our entire Cabinet and the Colleges of Public Health throughout the Commonwealth, Nursing schools, Hospitals, and smaller medical clinics plus our responding community.

So, our grouping structure grew which might be an understatement. We divided the structure up into two categories, Government, and outside entities. The government structure was further divided into Cabinets, Departments, Divisions, and then Branches for all of Kentucky State Government. The outside partners’ structure was guided by anywhere public health services touched our Commonwealth which included medical partners and not overlooking nursing homes and the responding community and other areas including restaurants. To date, we have 92 groups for Government and 15 groups for outside entities.

In my next blog post, we will explore how we use the grouping structure and the impact of this structure.


Assessment – Introductory and Final page text

As we have pivoted this year to web-based everything, TRAIN Assessments, I feel, play an important role in the training we offer. I have discussed this in detail in past post, Stop the Click Through  and Assessment .

Today I want to bring your attention to the Assessment set up and in particular, the Introductory text and Final page Text tabs.

Introductory text

Introductory Text

How many references do you find for “pre-assessment?” Have you taken support emails from Learners looking for a pre-assessment when none was assigned?

Do you replace this text? This may be an opportunity to help the Learner navigate the Assessment process. We have taken to replacing this text with our own. We also have taken this opportunity to enlarge the font size to 24.

Here is what we tell our Learners:

Click ‘Start Assessment’ button to start the assessment.

You must pass this assessment to proceed to the next step. 

It’s important to note, that there are limited attempts at passing the assessment. 

If you have exhausted all the attempts allowed, and you have not passed the assessment, you must still complete the course evaluation by using the “evaluation” button and then you must start over again by re-registering for the course until you have successfully passed the assessment.

If you are unable to complete the assessment for any reason (such as technical error, power outage, exiting the window prematurely, etc.) and TRAIN will not re-open the assessment when prompted, please withdraw from the course and re-register.

Final page text

Final page text

Our Course Providers sometimes overlook the three text boxes on this tab. We replace the text in the first section titled, Assessment was passed, with our own text and again increasing the font size to 24.

Please proceed to the next step by completing the course evaluation using “Evaluation” button.

Please note: the number of attempts you have to complete the assessment may be limited. If you are unable to complete the assessment for any reason (such as technical error, power outage, exiting the window prematurely, etc.) and TRAIN will not re-open the assessment when prompted, please withdraw from the course and re-register.

Your course registration status will be changed and you will receive an automated TRAIN email message.

The second and third sections titled Assessment was not passed, but there are attempts left and Assessment was not passed and there are no attempts left, we leave the text in place but again, increase the font size to 24.

I hope you find this information helpful. Please share your Assessment strategies and lessons learned.


Protecting Data

When was the last time you clicked on the Policies link at the bottom of the TRAIN website?

Policies link

Have you read Section 2? Confidentiality Statements? Several sentences grab my attention.

Affiliates may grant access rights to learner records to vendors performing evaluation or other duties on the Affiliate’s behalf, so long as such vendors agree to the confidentiality terms set forth by PHF.

II. Confidentiality Statement 2. (Emphasis mine)

 Or, how about this sentence.

PHF and any vendors used by PHF, Affiliates, or their designees agree that learner records containing transcripts and individually identifying data will not be disclosed to any third party, except upon the written authorization of the learner, or upon the order of a court of competent jurisdiction.

II. Confidentiality Statement 5. (Emphasis mine)

How often does the Nursing Supervisor of any facility contact you and ask if nurse so and so has completed this required course? Do you voluntarily look up the Learner’s transcript and offer that information freely?

Do you review these policies with your Course Providers regularly? How do you communicate this information to them? Do you have a written agreement with your course provider that is signed annually?

Rhonda Willis at CDC would be a great resource for getting started with creating your own TRAIN Annual Agreement with Course providers.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.


Let’s go to the Library

There is a feature in TRAIN that often gets little love but is coming in handy with the COVID-19 curriculum. You will find the Library tile under your Admin link.


This is where you may store items that may be of help to Learners, your Course Providers, or your Team Members. I think back to Job Aids when I think of the TRAIN Library. The Library allows you to organize materials within folders that you create and name even going so far as letting you create subfolders.

Interestingly the content you may add is all of the usual suspects you come across when uploading to the TRAIN site, but also includes the addition of URL links that may be named, defined, and placed in the folder you create. We have become accustomed to uploading PDF format files making it easy on the upload and easy for the end-user downloading folder items across a sundry of devices.

If you have not browsed the TRAIN Library before you can view a wide variety of documents that have been uploaded by Affiliates, PHF, KMI, CDC, MRC, and others. You can find various logos under the image file, TRAIN Flyers, and even a FAQ folder for TRAIN Administrators and Course Providers uploaded in 2008. I wonder if we are still asking the same questions in 2020? We are.

Of note, the Library feature is an administrative role and if someone besides you will be creating files and uploading items to folders you will have to provide them the Library Role.

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How are we using the Library feature for COVID-19 Training?

Preparing many contact tracers to perform their duties is a bit challenging especially when the web-based tools they are using are new and as more data comes in, their roles may change. We find that the training materials may get updated weekly.

Initially, a Contact Tracer would navigate to their assigned TRAIN courses and find all this supporting documentation under the course Resources tab. SideBar, you might have noticed recently the capacity of the Resources tab was increased to 100 MB. The Resource tab worked swimmingly for those Learners coming to the course for the first time, but not so much for those that have completed the course prior. New documents are continuously being added. Our attention turned to the Library.

Communication lines are well set with our Contact Tracers. As items are added to the Library folders, URL links of the well-organized named folders are shared as items change. Contact Tracers follow the links and view or download items as needed. A feature that is working swimmingly.

Please share your thoughts and ideas.


Stop the Click Through

Policing TRAIN users both Learners and Course Providers. I have struggled with this concept from the first day I was given access to TRAIN. I firmly believe in decentralizing any TRAIN process that we can comfortably do. I firmly believe that when you centralize any TRAIN process you limit its potential and growth.

As you aware TRAIN served the Preparedness folks when first released. We opened TRAIN up to the other Departments in Public Health, an act of decentralizing. If kept within Preparedness we would have limited its use. In other acts of decentralizing we opened TRAIN to all our government family. We opened TRAIN to our schools throughout the Commonwealth including the Department of Education, Public Colleges and Universities. We have extended TRAIN to our hospital partners throughout the Commonwealth.

As you can imagine our Learners come from all walks of life and that brings me to our topic today, stop the click through. Very early on it was very apparent our Course Providers did not trust their audience. Any Learner worth their salt gamed the TRAIN system and found the easiest path to their award, the certificate. There are moments over the years that I would receive an email forwarded to me that marketed a “mandatory” course and attached to the email were the Assessment answers.

I have received more than one email from a supervisor asking me to verify that the attached Certificate was TRAIN produced. Sadly, no, they were very poorly created Certificates that looked more like a pasted together ransom note.

So, it is in our DNA, given a task, we find the shortest distance between A and B. Not only do we struggle with this within TRAIN, but it has been a hot topic in higher education for years. For a different perspective, you might enjoy Audrey Watters view

What is a Click Through

A Learner launches Registers or Launches a course, marks themselves complete, and receives a Certificate without ever sitting in a classroom or watching an online video or interacts with an online module. The data that bares this phenomenon outcomes from the Course Roster, Export Roster page.

TRAIN Export Roster

Have you ever looked at columns BA, BB, and BC of this report? Displayed are Launch and Completion dates and time stamps. Traditionally, we use this data when assigning Length, found under the Common Information, of your course build. This is particularly helpful when an online module is given to a test group. We use that data for calculating Continuing Education Hours. The data also is used to observe Learner behavior.

We occasionally observe that our Learners Click Through the content, for their Launch Completion Date Time Stamps prove this out. We also observe this phenomenon with our video products.

We made the decision many years ago out of necessity to move all our video products to YouTube. We did not have the storage capacity and the reliability factor that videos would play consistently. YouTube has the capacity and is reliable. I cannot even think of the last time we took a support call for a video not playing.

YouTube analytics are deep in detail. These days of webinar fatigue bare the Click Through behavior of our Learners. Webinar fatigue has settled in on our audiences. They cannot take one more talking PowerPoint and it shows in the data.

How we address the Click Through

The solution we settled on is simple but takes Course Provide effort. We incorporate the CDC Quality Training Standards into our Course Provider Training.

We have a conversation about writing SMART Learning Objectives. We highlight Learner Engagement, especially to combat the Zoom Fatigue and we mandate the use of Assessments. This takes coaching, encouraging, supporting your Course provider.

Learning Objectives must be measurable. The Assessments must align with the Learning Objectives and the content of the course. We encourage Assessment questions are written out thoughtfully. We also prefer banks of questions be created that are randomly drawn by selecting M random questions out of N selected to be used when creating the Assessment in TRAIN.

TRAIN Assessment Question Delivery Type

Sidebar. Allow for internet burps by minimally allowing more than one attempt to pass the Assessment.

The Results

Learners still look for the shortest route from A to B. Some still click through, but they have an Assessment to deal with forcing some back into the content. Some click through and pass the Assessment and that is okay, they know the content. We let those test out without question. All of these patterns are revealed as we view the data that is available to us through Roster Export reports, YouTube Analytic data, Assessment and Evaluation data as well as Course Rating comments and Course Discussion comments found on the Course Home Page.

Course Providers are being asked to invest more in their training. We have talked about this before, we are slowly changing a culture that was most interested In just getting their course on TRAIN to an idea of looking into questions such as did we accomplish what we needed to do.

How are you stopping the Click Throughs?


A Happy Competent Workforce

 “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Walter Disney

I have not been in my office for six months. On a bookshelf sits a binder from a conference I attended in Atlanta, I think in 2003. This was a CDC conference. The theme, technology. I remember Public Health Foundation was present. This is where I first met Stacy and Chris. I learned that Chris lived close to me in Louisville, Kentucky. In the future, we would meet at one of our local coffee shops and discuss TRAIN. This conference is memorable to me because of a presentation by Kristine Gebbie, DrPH.

Gebbie’s Toolkit can be found here

More information about Dr. Gebbie can be found here

I remember sitting in that crowded conference ballroom listening to that presentation and having my aha moment. I remember thinking, this is the secret ingredient of TRAIN and why TRAIN will be so important to the public health workforce.

Leading up to this conference there were a lot of conversations taking place in public health cubicles. I remember attending many meetings in my workplace and the burning topic of conversation centered around credentialing public health program staff, for some reason they were picking on Environmentalists. Back to Dr. Gebbie’s presentation.

That day, I was sitting with hundreds of my peers, Dr. Gebbie went into detail describing the Council on Linkages Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals or skill sets as they related to the training of our public health workforce and how they aligned with our Ten Essential Services. PHAB accreditation would come many years later, but also, ties in nicely with this competency concept.

What problem did Dr. Gebbie solve for me that morning so long ago in Atlanta? I cannot tell you the number of meetings I have had with public health leadership over the subject of identifying those ten magic courses every public health nurse must be mandated to take. The same for front office staff, environmental staff, and administrative leadership staff were all targeted in these conversations.

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At the end of the day, only perceived required courses could be agreed upon. HIPAA, Bloodbourne Pathogens, OSHA TB, Limited English Proficient, Civil Rights, Sexual Harassment, and Ergonomics courses made the list of agreed-upon curriculum for all the public health workforce. This curriculum is important but hardly building the skillset of our workforce.

Dr. Gebbie turned this all upside down. We were so intent on focusing on finding those ten perfect courses when all along we needed to be focusing on ten skills each of our disciplines should have at the basic level. That is achievable, we can find an agreement there and that makes TRAIN indispensable.

What does this look like in reality? Well, let us look at nursing. Maybe your team (that includes the targeted audience) decides that it would be a good idea if our nursing staff could communicate well with their patients. That might be a good basic skill to have. So, under communication skills, they chose this competency, “Communicates information to influence behavior, and improve health.” That is a perfect skill every nurse should have.

What does that look like in training the nurse that wants to sharpen their skills not only for themselves but contributing to their workplace following along the ideas of PHAB, individuals improve performance through training that improves the overall efforts of the health department.

Instead of telling the nurses to take these ten mandatory courses that management has hand chosen for you, maybe we take a different approach. Let us train our nurses to search TRAIN by Competency in which they find curriculum that supports the competency Leadership has agreed upon. This is good. In turn, the nurse finds courses in their TRAIN Competency search that turns up topics that interest them. They find learning modalities that they prefer. Who knows, they may even find more than one course to take.

Let us take this idea one step further. Think about this scenario. You are an employee of a local health department. You are an Environmentalist. You sit down at the beginning of the year with your supervisor who lays out a few core basic skills that he thinks are important to your job. The skills are selected directly from the Council on Linkages Competencies for Public Health Professionals list.

You agree these skills are important to what I do every day, and yes, these skills I would like to build upon. Great, you and your supervisor agree that for the next twelve months you will search out curriculum in TRAIN by competency and you both agree you will participate in training over the next 12 months. Your supervisor further supports that this training is to be done during your workday as time permits.

Hello, web-based interactive modules. The mid-year review comes up and you sit down with your supervisor again. How is the training coming along? Well, let us look at my TRAIN transcript. We can look at what I have done so far.

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Twelve months have gone by. Again, that sit down with your supervisor. This scenario could play out a couple of different ways.

Your supervisor could congratulate you on the training you have done over the past few months and this has been validated in improved performance. Back in the day, you might even have gotten an increase in pay.

This could also play out differently for you. You might be telling your supervisor that since I have been doing all this training I now qualify for a higher paying job. See yah.

No matter how the scenario plays out, your PHAB Accreditation leader wins no matter what. They will periodically test you, survey you, or whatever instrument name they use and as long as the workforce continues to take training through TRAIN as a life long commitment to improving themselves, this will be all well documented in TRAIN reports that can be directly uploaded into ePHAB and the improved workforce through quality competency based training will show as they continue their PHAB efforts.

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Dr. Gebbie, Thank You for those all of these ideas way back in the early 2000s in that ballroom where I sat and could not wait to get back home to begin working on these ideas.

How are using competencies in your training?