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Nov. 12, 2012, Toronto – It’s been a long haul, but as the saying goes, it’s not easy to turn a supertanker. Over the course of the last 14 years, the Ontario Fire College (OFC) has adopted completely new curricula for company officers and fire prevention officers, continually updated and revised those curricula, established de-centralized campuses and a network of associate instructors to provide traditional course delivery across a large and diverse province, partnered with community colleges and tried – really, really tried – to implement an online learning system for course delivery.

November 12, 2012
By Peter Sells

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Nov. 12, 2012, Toronto – It’s been a long haul, but as the saying goes, it’s not easy to turn a supertanker. Over the course of the last 14 years, the Ontario Fire College (OFC) has adopted completely new curricula for company officers and fire prevention officers, continually updated and revised those curricula, established de-centralized campuses and a network of associate instructors to provide traditional course delivery across a large and diverse province, partnered with community colleges and tried – really, really tried – to implement an online learning system for course delivery.

I can give you a few perspectives on this epic struggle. As a major customer, in my role as the district chief of the Toronto Fire Academy in the late 1990s, I had numerous discussions about increased course access with Fred McLennan and Ed Godden, who were both newly placed as the OFC’s principal and academic manager, respectively. Online delivery was among the strategies we talked about. After being placed as co-chair on the advisory committee for the company officer diploma program, I was involved in the revision and restructuring of curricula and the development of equivalency programs. Each time a new need was identified, online delivery was suggested and explored as a solution. One stumbling block that Godden confided to me was that, on more than one occasion, he was blocked by higher echelons of the provincial government because a ministry-wide online initiative was “on the horizon.” These broader provincial projects never materialized and despite Godden’s efforts, the OFC was left without an online learning system of its own.

As an entrepreneur, I had clients and potential clients for online learning-management systems who had a specific need for a more efficient means of getting their people through the OFC programs. More and more fire departments across Ontario have adopted online learning systems for their in-house needs. Those departments have realized some tangible benefits in terms of effectiveness and efficiency in their training programs, and they are not interested in moving backwards. They need to have their people complete the OFC curricula, and they need to do it efficiently.

Earlier this week, the Centre for Emergency Response & Public Safety (CERPS) announced the launch of its web-based training courses for Ontario firefighters. In partnership with the OFC, CERPS uses the latest distance-learning tools to bring selected courses from the OFC’s company officer and fire prevention officer training curricula to the student. The media release can be seen here:

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www.cisionwire.com/centre-for-emergency-response—public-safety/r/cerps-training-inc–launches-e-learning-partnership-with-ontario-fire-college,c9331391

“This new program directly supports the mandate given to the college to enhance workplace safety for fire service professionals,” said Jay Patterson, president and CEO of CERPS Training Inc. “Fire services that are distant from existing training resources will gain immediate access to the latest in OFC course content as well as the updated guidelines they need the most.”

“The Ontario Fire College (OFC) is pleased to add this technology-savvy partnership to its panoply of professional regional training centres in order to make Ontario safer,” said Guy Degagné, acting manager of the OFC academic unit since Godden’s retirement earlier this year. “While maintaining quality training, this model will make training more accessible by reaching firefighters across all regions of the province.”

CERPS has licensed e-learning technology from Stillwater Consulting Ltd., developers of the Fire Learning Management System or FLMS. Stillwater has been gaining traction with municipal fire departments across Canada, as the market for online learning management systems continues to grow.

The experience of attending the OFC campus, meeting and breaking bread with firefighters from every corner of Ontario, is indeed special and will certainly remain a keystone of OFC programs. Online delivery will help in the completion of educational goals as the fire service continues to progress and professionalize.

Retired District Chief Peter Sells writes, speaks and consults on fire service management and professional development across North America and internationally. He holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Windsor. He sits on the advisory council of the Institution of Fire Engineers, Canada branch. Peter is president of NivoNuvo Consulting, Inc, specializing in fire-service management. Contact him at peter.nivonuvo@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @NivoNuvo.


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