State Fire Brigade and Disaster Control School

Design, implementation and evaluation of a blended learning course for the training of group leaders of the volunteer fire brigade at the Fire and Disaster Control School Rhineland-Palatinate (LFKS)

Creation of the project

LFKS LogoThe Fire Brigade and Disaster Control School (LFKS) is the central training facility for the volunteer fire brigades, the professional and plant fire brigades and the other relief organisations in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Approximately 5,300 members of the various organisations are trained in around 250 events every year.

This means that both the number of course participants and the number of course days has more than doubled in the last ten years. The number of course participants from more highly qualified professions has steadily decreased in comparison.

This is mainly due to the obligation of employers to release these employees from work for training courses and fire-fighting missions.

In order to counteract this trend, the management of the LFKS has informed itself about new teaching and learning methods and intensively dealt with the topics of e-learning and blended learning.

After numerous discussions with companies and institutions, the Institute for Knowledge Media (IWM) at the University of Koblenz-Landau was finally awarded a project contract to support the introduction of a blended learning course for the training of group leaders of the volunteer fire brigades.

Aims of the blended learning course

eGruppenführer

New interested parties for the volunteer fire brigade are to be gained primarily through the inclusion of new media such as the Internet, chat rooms and forums, audio conferences, the provision of course materials in a learning platform (LMS) and through graphically appealing animated tests and quizzes.

The attendance times of the course and thus the lost working hours for the employees should be reduced noticeably.

In order to enable members of other professional groups to take part in these courses, the participants will be taught in the state fire brigade school only on 5 days instead of a two-week course.

The main part of the theoretical contents of the training courses is acquired by the participants on their home PC.

In individually designed self-learning phases, but also in virtual pair and group work, social, communicative and leadership skills are developed and practiced.

In the online phases, the course participants are accompanied by the LFKS trainers who, in addition to their role as authors of the course materials, primarily take on the role of moderator, consultant or coach. For these new tasks they will be trained within the project and receive didactic support during the project.

Parallel to the redesign of the course structure, the course materials will be updated. Open data formats facilitate the use of the contents on different systems, learning platforms and output devices.

Accompanying scientific research will be carried out throughout the pilot phase. The results of this research form the basis for the structural and media-technical optimisation of the course.

The methodological-didactic concept

The previous form of conventional face-to-face teaching is largely being replaced by the current forms of e-learning:

  • A selection test determines the level of communication, learning and group work skills and offers the possibility to select suitable course participants.
  • From his Internet-capable PC, the learner has access to all course materials in the web-based learning management system at any time.
  • Targeted work tasks support the learner in the individual acquisition of knowledge.
  • Specific group tasks encourage cooperative and collaborative work in small groups in forums, chat rooms and virtual classrooms.
  • The tutorial support during the online phases enables a continuous increase in the motivation and learning performance of the course participants.
  • Based on the examination of the individual level of knowledge through the numerous tests and quizzes, the learner is offered either shortened learning paths or detailed additional information.
  • The media mix of auditory, visual, communicative and cognitive stimuli and learning offers promotes a holistic form of knowledge acquisition and learning.

The technical implementation

The technical solution designed and implemented to generate the learning content and coordinate the online phase of the blended learning course consists of four components.

  1. The authors of the LFKS create their learning content using forms that they generate using the XML authoring tool Microsoft InfoPath 2003 and store on a common Internet platform.
  2. This Internet platform is implemented using Microsoft SharePoint Services and enables, among other things
    • Version control
    • Coordination of the areas of responsibility.
    • Backup of the data (be it text, image, video or flash content).
    • Extension through self-programmed so-called Web Parts.
    • Future-oriented infrastructure through communication via XML and Web Services.
    • Design of the layout via FrontPage 2003.
    • High scalability.
  3. The administrator takes over the processing and transformation of the learning content available in XML. The administrator selects the content to be transferred and the desired output style. The administrator tool then generates a compressed package in an open format for import into one of the available e-learning platforms that support this format.
  4. Once the course has been uploaded and imported into an e-learning platform, such as WebCT, learners can access it via the Internet.