• David Sharp
  • 21 August 2017

IOSH Managing Safely eLearning

This week sees the launch of the new version of the IOSH Managing Safely eLearning course by International Workplace. It’s a major revision: the course has been over a year in the making, it’s based on the latest version 5.0 of the IOSH syllabus, and it contains nearly 25,000 lines of new code.

We’re running a free trial so you can see it for yourself – you can find the details at the end of this article.

The course, and the learning platform it’s delivered on, contain a number of innovations.


Innovative new course

Let’s start with the course. Despite being one of the earliest providers of IOSH Managing Safely by eLearning – it went live in 2008 – so many changes were needed to our existing course that we decided to start with a clean sheet of paper.

The move to HTML 5 was an easy choice, delivering a much smoother user experience on a wide range of browsers and devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

That may not sound like a great claim, but we looked closely at our competitors, and there is a very big difference between claiming a course works on smartphone, and it actually being in any way bearable to study on a smartphone. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make our course truly adaptive for the learner, rather than just shrinking the content to fit a smaller screen. So if you switch from using a laptop to a smartphone, while you might be completing the same drag and drop exercise, the interactions may work in a very different way that is suited to each environment.

With nothing to constrain us, we started with the idea of introducing something into the course akin to the Aku Aku, the witch doctor spirit who lives as a wooden mask and accompanies players in the vintage video game Crash Bandicoot. Wherever you go, the mask goes with you, helping ward off danger. The idea of a ‘floating friend’ to help guide you through the course morphed into the floating menu that sits in the final version of the course, and helps you get the most from one of the major innovations – an interactive course book that self-compiles as you go progress, giving you the chance to add your own notes along the way.

Earlier versions of our course had been reliant on information saved in pdf format, which needed to be downloaded by the user and read in conjunction with the online course. That didn’t seem like good eLearning to us, and we much preferred the idea of a workbook being empty at the start of a course, and complete when you’ve finished it. It’s not a reference book, after all.

We really wanted to keep everything online and interactive if possible, and so this particular innovation was developed from the school ‘rough book’ – an exercise book you were given at the start of each academic year to do rough workings out (and doodles), to keep your course books neat and tidy. So now the key points from the course automatically copy over to your rough book as you complete it, and you can add in your own reflections, notes or references as you go. So at the end of the course you have a comprehensive workbook for use as a revision aid (for the assessment) or for future reference at work.


Making the course accesssible

There are plenty more new features and functions to really engage learners, not least the number of videos, animations and the use of optional voiceovers and captions. These weren't developed simply to make the course easier to study in different environments or to appeal to different learning styles. In consultation with UKIE, appointed to the UK Government’s panel on accessibility in gaming and online learning, we’ve also tried to design a course that is user-friendly for people with cognitive impairments, and to enhance the learning experience for people who find traditional ‘written word’ learning challenging. We’re pleased with the results, though it’s an area we’d like to do more with in future.

While many of these innovations will be visible to the learner, it’s the development of the technical platform that has required the most work, and where we think we’ve created the most value.


New technical platform

We chose to redevelop our online learning platform based on the xAPI specification, also known as Tin Can. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s a relatively new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about a wide range of experiences a learner has, whether online or offline. It means we can capture and report on much more information about what a user does, over and above the very narrow data that SCORM would otherwise capture when it records a learner’s answers or scores. Though xAPI is still in its infancy, we’re sure it will rapidly become the standard specification for measuring learner experiences.

We know from our corporate clients how highly they value the ability to plug an online course like IOSH Managing Safely into their existing LMS. They want to be able to generate a return on the not inconsiderable investment they’ve already made in their own corporate LMS or enterprise system. They want to use it to enrol learners; to track learner progress; and to store and report on learner records. They don't want to use yet another third party system ...

Unfortunately, the market for learning technology is still immature, and we find there is a large gap between those corporates who are extremely knowledgeable and those who are not yet able to articulate their requirements. Many employers utilise an SCORM-based LMS, based on a well entrenched standard of interoperability which is nevertheless now more than 15 years old, and which limits some of the very best features that can be delivered from a course such as ours. An added complication is the restriction, imposed by IOSH in this case, which requires International Workplace as the licensed course provider to retain control over critical functional elements such as progress tracking and records storage.

All of these factors mean it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide a plain vanilla content file that can be imported into a client’s corporate LMS or enterprise system, and which meets the quality assurance criteria required of a licensed training provider. The dumbing down required to make content SCORM conformant is not a sensible solution for this, and it doesn’t allow the training provider to retain control over critical course delivery functions anyway.

With our new technical platform, however, we can do a great deal to deliver a white labelled IOSH Managing Safely course by eLearning for our corporate clients, for example by integrating our learning platform with their own LMS or reporting systems, via LDAP or ADFS, or any simpleSAMLphp authentication protocol. Employees log in to the course automatically and see their own company’s brand; managers see reports in the reporting systems they are familiar with; but the processing power is delivered by International Workplace’s technical platform.


Langauge, cultural and regional variants

Likewise, the technical platform allows the course to be readily translated into any number of languages with little need for re-coding, and the course can also be adapted to take account of cultural or geographical preferences, or to include company-specific material. Furthermore, it has been built for re-sale: it allows trade or professional bodies to sell a branded version on to their members, and corporate clients to subsidise their own health and safety training programmes by generating a revenue stream from sales of the course to their customers and suppliers.

IOSH Managing Safely has certainly come a long way since the classroom course we started teaching all those years ago. On the upside: anything can be done, and probably more easily than you think. On the downside, it requires a different type of conversation to discover how to make the most of the course for you and your organisation.

To give you a flavour our new IOSH Managing Safely v.5.0 eLearning course, we’re running a free trial so you can study Module 1 of the course for free.


Study Module one for free


We’d love to hear what you think of it.