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e-Learning Food Safety Training – Delving Into The Risks

by Andrew Thomson on March 4, 2019

Australian hospitals and aged care facilities have increasingly been using a one size fits all approach using e-learning as their preferred method for employee training in food safety management. Many of these organisations have been directed by their corporate head office which view e-learning as a relatively low cost, money wise and it represents a convenient time saving investment – more often or not the employee undertakes this training in their own time. These operations believe it ticks the boxes for meeting accreditation training standards and compliance.  

Such an approach to employee skills development is done without any clear understanding of your operational training needs and what form of training methodology will work best for you and the learning styles of your employees.

Many of the e-learning food safety training courses I have viewed are general in nature, using a text-based approach with some incorporating video clips; others use animations or interactive games. These courses do not reflect the specific workplace requirements and in fact are designed to provide basic food safety information only. Important issues around the processes involved in producing safe food are invariably left to the employee to fill in the gaps.

There is also the risk of employees memorising the information to facilitate completion of the module through rote memorisation without ever asking why or seeing the bigger picture. Once the information is memorised and tested employees tend to forget the information

There is also the question of authenticity of completed assessment tasks, it is not uncommon for an individual employee to reward a colleague (financially or with cigarettes) for completing this task.

In the past hospital and aged care managers have been sold the idea that once the employee has completed the training, they now have the necessary skills to do the job on their own. These operations run into trouble because of this. It is critical employees receive supervision, guidance and support from a senior member of the food business such as the Food Safety Supervisor.

Typically, e-learning courses tend to have minimal, if any, trainer interaction with the employee to help guide them through their learning experience. This places employees who require a little more assistance or employees that have English as second language or who are not computer literate at risk. These employees tend to be reluctant to express or show they do not understand something as they believe they will not look favourably with their supervisor or manager. Of course, there are employees who do understand the information but fail to implement what they have learnt, and it’s all been a wasted time and effort.

Most adult learners develop a preference for learning that is based on childhood learning patterns. The most frequently used method of defining learning styles is in describing visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learners.

Visual learners prefer seeing what they are learning. Auditory learners prefer to hear the message or instruction being given. Kinaesthetic learners want to sense the position and movement of the skill or task. These learners generally do not like class-based activities or discussion but prefer those that allow them to “do something.” These adults do well learn a physical skill when there are materials available for hands-on practice.

Let’s consider the strengths and weaknesses of alternative training methods:

Blended learning

Strengths: Adopts the use of online technology and learning combined with various features of face to face interaction.

Weaknesses: Has a strong dependence on electronic equipment which needs to be reliable, well maintained and requires ongoing technical support. This methodology requires employees (students) to possess good computer skills; they must also be highly motivated to keep up-to-date with their learning. Effective feedback is provided via email or through the e-learning platform used for the online delivery of the course.

Face-to-face learning

Strengths: Combines several different training (teaching) approaches – presenting information, demonstrations, interactivity which is ideal for employees who want to participate in group activities, group learning and group discussions.

Weaknesses: Invariably is trainer (teacher) centred, can lack flexibility and requires employees to travel off-site.

On-the-job learning (external trainer input)

Strengths: Training is provided in the workplace. The information sticks with the employee. This then enables the employee to understand the WHY behind what is required of them in familiar surroundings and usage of equipment; it boosts their self-esteem and confidence. There are cost advantages too.

Weaknesses: Training needs to fit in with production scheduling.

Webinars

Strengths:

Webinars are online, easy and convenient to both presenters and viewers.

With pre-recorded webinars viewers can access them in their own time and in bite-sized chunks to fit in with their schedule. It also provides the viewer to divide up the content and learn at their own pace.

Weaknesses:

Getting connections to work reliably when required especially with multiple viewers across different time zones, using different technologies and with internet access that can be slow and drop, is a challenge.

Other types of technical problems could also occur i.e. business firewalls, slow Internet speeds, system configurations incompatible, etc.

Audience environment may be subject to interruptions or disruptions such as side conversations, having to do other work at the same time, etc.

All in all, a webinar offers great opportunities for both viewers and presenters.

Anyone who provides food to the public is responsible for its safety. 

Take the risk out of uncertainty and provide your food handling employees with high quality food safety training which meets customer, business, regulatory and accreditation standards.

Contact Andrew Thomson info@thinkstsolutions.com.au

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