The following summarizes Microassist’s work developing a Verbal De-escalation training program for the National Center for Campus Public Safety. The project was recognized with the 2019 Leaders in Learning award from the Austin Chapter of the Association of Talent Development.
Today’s institutions of higher education present both new and continuing demands of professionals responsible for maintaining safety and security on campuses.
The National Center for Campus Public Safety’s Verbal De-escalation Education Program is designed to train campus safety personnel who may need to intervene in potentially violent situations. De-escalating situations without resorting to physical restraints can help prevent potential harm for everyone involved. Verbal de-escalation skills, like all skills, work best when learned and practiced.
To help fulfill these objectives, Microassist worked with the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS) to create an online education program that was interactive, engaging, and effective in training campus safety personnel in verbal de-escalation techniques. The program was overwhelmingly successful, training over 1500 people with a program that participants consistently rated as practical, useful, and engaging.
The National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS) collaborates with campus safety, law enforcement, and emergency management professionals; administrators; students; advocacy organizations; community leaders; professional associations; federal agencies; and others who work to support safer, stronger campus campuses.
NCCPS stakeholders indicated that their training budgets were in decline, yet their departments were required to meet increasing expectations and be more creative to achieve the desired outcome of well-trained staff.
In 2014, NCCPS services expanded to include online educational opportunities through the Virtual Professional Development (VPD) initiative. VPD was developed in response to an identified need through discussions in the field with public safety officials and industry experts.
The design of the Verbal De-escalation Educational program was influenced by two factors: budget and accessibility. Interactive online training presents a powerful solution to helping personnel learn and practice skills. It makes training available on the participant’s schedule, delivers training at the participant’s pace, and ensures that training can be taken at the participant’s location. In addition, all personnel receive the same training, delivered with a consistent approach.
NCCPS was funded by federal grant money and had a specific and limited budget. The training program was also designed to be inclusive of people with disabilities—it met the requirements set by Section 508 federal guidelines regarding accessibility.
To develop an effective program within these constraints, Microassist worked with NCCPS to create an interactive online training program that was within budget and usable by those with disabilities.
The approximate seat time is three hours, and it is divided into five modules. The first four modules are interactive training modules. They provide participants opportunities to evaluate specific situations, listen to experts discuss their experiences, and experiment with active listening and other de-escalation techniques.
The fifth module, Practicing De-escalation, is a scenario-based component that provides learners the opportunity to put to use the knowledge they gained in the first four modules. In each of the three scenarios, learners are placed in a situation that may escalate to violence and are asked to make a series of decisions. With each choice, the participants receive feedback, which offers guidance and emphasizes the lessons from the first four modules. Each scenario has a series of paths that lead to successful and unsuccessful resolutions, and at the end of each scenario, learners are given the opportunity to try again and learn by doing.
To stay within budget, the scenarios were designed as a series of multiple-choice questions where each response took the participant to a new question. This approach simplified programming, avoiding the expense of a video- or avatar-based environment. At the same time, careful attention to storytelling and dialog kept the scenarios realistic and engaging.
The question-based format also helped the course satisfy accessibility requirements. Participants who could not use a mouse could navigate the scenarios using a keyboard; participants who use assistive technology to read the screen out loud could hear and participate in the entire experience.
To create the course, Microassist’ team, guided by formal project management, broadly followed its standard development process. The project started with a design blueprint, which was then transformed into a storyboard, and then the storyboard was used as a basis for the programmed modules. The programmed modules were made available to participants as activities in a standard learning management system.
The course development team gave special attention to the scenario-based module five. Microassist’s instructional designers worked with NCCPS’ SME to develop scenarios based on realistic situations and responses. As it can be difficult to represent a branching scenario-based event in a traditional, linear storyboard, Microassist instructional designers use tools developed for writing interactive fiction to map out and represent the branching paths of the scenarios to enable NCCPS stakeholders to visualize the participant experience before programming it in the development tool.
The Microassist team worked with the NCCPS subject matter experts (SME) to develop the content and approach. The Microassist team incorporated the NCCPS SME revisions into the course, and NCCPS reviewed and approved each stage before moving to the next.
The course was created within the budget and time frame of the federal grant. As required by law, the entire training program met Section 508 accessibility requirements.
Participants found the course effective and engaging. Data from an early post-course survey of 323 participants indicated the following:
- 94% either agreed or strongly agreed that the training program met the objectives (agree 43%/strongly agree 51%)
- 94% either agreed or strongly agreed that the training program was practical and useful (agree 43%/strongly agree 51%)
- 92% either agreed or strongly agreed that the training program was engaging (agree 40%/strongly agree 52%)
The scenario approach seemed to be particularly effective. Almost 10% mentioned “scenario” when asked “what you liked about this educational program.”
Results as of July 31, 2019:
· 1654 NCCPS members had taken course at no cost and with no impact to travel budgets
· 1326 completed the course for an 80% completion rate
· 93% overall satisfaction rating on the course (with the remaining 7% neutral)
More User Feedback
“Very informative; questions and scenarios
helped to grasp the information better.”
“Enjoyable, easy to understand and clearly stated.”
“I liked that this educational program oﬀered useful
examples that I can utilize daily.”
“This training will help me with situations and now I am
comfortable with trying to de-escalate a situation.”
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