eLearning design guidelines for health and safety training programs
Training for working at heights and joint health and safety committee certification must be approved by the Chief Prevention Officer of Ontario. Learn about the criteria for any eLearning components of the training.
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We have updated these guidelines as of May 1, 2020.
Changes include new requirements for interactivity in eLearning courses. The requirements are specific to Part One training for Joint Health and Safety Committee certification.
If you would like to apply for Chief Prevention Officer approval of an eLearning course please review the application guidelines. If you have additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Section 7.1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) the authority to establish standards for training programs required under the OHSA and its regulations, and to approve training programs which meet those standards.
Section 7.2 of the OHSA provides the CPO with the authority to establish standards which must be met in order for a training provider to be approved to deliver one or more approved training programs.
In order for training programs that use eLearning as a delivery method to be approved by the CPO, such programs must meet both the eLearning Instructional Design Guidelines as well as the associated Training Program Standard established by the CPO.
The term “eLearning” is a term covering a wide set of applications and processes that includes web-based learning or computer-based learning. eLearning is training that is delivered electronically in which a learner sets their own pace and is not being led in real time by a qualified instructor.
eLearning, combined with face-to-face learning, is also referred to as blended learning.
Learners have varying needs based on language, literacy, accommodation, scheduling, and location. As a result, a variety of delivery methods may be considered for approval, including eLearning, classroom-based and blended learning programs.
All eLearning training program components must include plans for interaction with a qualified instructor for content support.
When a blended learning program is being designed, the two sections of the training program must be well integrated.
For blended learning, evaluation in the face-to-face part of the training program must support and validate that the learning outcomes covered by the eLearning component of the training program have been adequately met by the learner.
For full eLearning programs, the training must ensure interactivity with the program throughout and knowledge transfer must be validated through a variety of evaluation methods. Evaluations must be completed in an eLearning format.
The eLearning Instructional Design Guidelines set out the minimum criteria that must be met by CPO approved training programs that use eLearning. When a training program standard established by the CPO incorporates these guidelines by reference, meeting these guidelines is necessary for a training program to be approved by the CPO.
This document should be used in conjunction with a training program standard established by the CPO. It is intended to guide training providers and/or developers who want to use eLearning in a training program that is being submitted to the CPO for approval. As a mode of delivery, eLearning components of a training program must meet the learning outcomes outlined in the associated training program standard.
The purpose of the eLearning Instructional Design Guidelines is to establish a minimum standard for high quality and consistent training for workers in the Province of Ontario.
The eLearning Guidelines are based on the following guiding principles:
- ensuring learners are aware of the purpose and expected outcomes of the training program
- designing for consistent and accessible interaction between the learner and a qualified instructor for the purposes of content and technical support
- fostering active learning
- designing for the learner’s ease of navigation and usability
3. eLearning program introduction
Every eLearning program introduction shall include: general information, a course outline and evaluation method. These three parts of the eLearning program introduction must be provided to learners before beginning the eLearning program to indicate what to expect during the program as well as the expected learning outcomes and anticipated benefits to the learners.
3.1. General information
A general introduction to the eLearning program must include:
- the overall goal and purpose
- the intended target audience
- anticipated learning outcomes
- the evaluation criteria for the successful completion of the eLearning program
- course prerequisite(s)
- list of materials that accompany the eLearning program (may include training performance aids, books or documents or other tools)
- if audio is used – direction as to where all of the eLearning program content is also available in text, and how it can be accessed
- instructions on how to access and communicate with a qualified instructor (i.e. method of interaction, availability times)
- how the eLearning component fits with the complete training program (blended learning only):
- overview of the complete training program with an indication of what specific topics and learning outcomes the eLearning program covers
- clarification on which topics and learning outcomes will be reviewed further during a face-to-face training session
3.2. eLearning program outline
The eLearning program outline must include:
- structure of the eLearning program, including a breakdown of the anticipated amount of time for the learner to complete each module, including any offline study periods if applicable
- a description of how the eLearning program will benefit the learner
- instruction on how to:
- navigate the eLearning program
- use navigation controls and configured features (e.g. sound volume, navigation buttons, glossary and help button), including navigation using the keyboard only
- answer questions and exercises
- an overview of the types of evaluations and the passing requirements
- study guidance or advice (“how to get the most out of the eLearning program”)
3.3. eLearning program evaluation
The eLearning program evaluation must include:
- formative and/or summative testing
- information on the storage and use of evaluation results
- eLearning program failure policy (i.e. options if a learner does not successfully complete the program)
4. Learning outcomes
To facilitate a learner’s understanding of the required learning outcomes in the training program, the following information must be incorporated into the introduction of each instructional unit/module:
- an outcomes statement that outlines the clear expectations of the learner, the activities that will be utilized and how the learner will be evaluated
- relevance and applicability of the learning outcomes to the purpose of the eLearning program
- directions on how the learner can refer back to learning outcomes at any point in the unit/module (to allow the learner to refresh their memory as to why a specific topic is being covered)
Assessing the learner allows a training provider to evaluate whether knowledge transfer has occurred. Assessment questions must:
- have clear instructions as to how to answer the question
- be composed in such a way that the mechanism for answering questions is straightforward (e.g. true/false, multiple choice)
- be varied and suitable for the type of question being asked (e.g. the question construction must allow multiple choices to be selected if a question has multiple correct answers)
- be focused on testing knowledge through the application of a job-relevant task or activity (i.e. avoid regurgitating information back to a learner)
- cover areas and learning outcomes that have been taught in the eLearning program
- be offered at a suitable level of difficulty based on learner needs (i.e. literacy, language, accommodation)
- be clearly worded (e.g. avoid negative constructions)
- employ plausible distracters with no “trick” distracters
- be programmed to prevent invalid answers (e.g. no option to input text answers or choose more than one answer)
- give the learner the opportunity to change their mind (typically achieved through a “confirm” button or similar action offered before moving on to the next question)
- provide explanatory feedback for both correct and incorrect answers to ensure the learner understands why a selected response was correct or incorrect
Instructional interactivity refers to approaches that actively engage learners to improve their ability to learn effectively.
6.1. Interactivity with the eLearning program
To ensure interactivity is at an optimal level:
- interaction with the instructional material must directly involve the learning content embedded in the eLearning program and not through the use of a separate program
- interaction must be focused to allow learners to receive feedback and reinforce that they are learning through active participation
- interactions must support the learning activity by:
- accurately reflecting the context of the real-world application of the skill
- explaining the reason for the interaction (i.e. why is the learner doing this)
- breaking down extended or complex activities into sub-components
- interspersing interactivity throughout the eLearning program rather than being concentrated in one particular section of a module
- following a designed elaboration strategy (e.g. should build from simple to complex, or may support skill practice with work examples prior to scenario-based learning)
- providing reinforcement through multiple examples
- pacing to allow the learner time for reflection and consolidation
6.2. Interactivity with a qualified instructor
Learners must have access to a qualified instructor to address any questions or concerns relating to the instructional content or technical performance of the eLearning training program. Learners must be made aware of methods of communication and expected response times. During regular business hours, response times must not exceed 30 minutes.
7. eLearning program architecture design
The design and feel of the eLearning program must be user-friendly and allow the learner to have unrestricted access to important components from any point within the eLearning program. These would include:
- access to a qualified instructor
- access to technical support
- ability for the learner to search for content within the training program (e.g. “search” button, “search” navigation bar)
- self-help information (e.g. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), program tutorial)
7.1. General learning
The instructional materials in the eLearning program must maintain a consistent appearance and presentation style, and satisfy the following general learning design criteria:
- learning is constructed in modular elements focused on clearly defined learning outcomes
- instructional units are organized in such a manner that the learner can return to a previously completed unit
- learning events are clearly and closely coupled to the learning outcomes and are sufficient to allow the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome
- each instructional unit should not exceed 15 minutes in duration of delivery (although unit durations may increase if adaptive learning is applied)
- within the eLearning program there must be congruence between learning outcomes, instructional materials and formal assessments (i.e. each outcome is supported by instructional content and interactions, and is evaluated)
- cumulative evaluation is sufficiently detailed to ensure the learner has achieved the learning outcomes
7.2. Adaptive learning
Adaptive learning is an educational method which allows the use of computers to adapt the presentation of educational material according to learner needs, and which meets the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). To be in compliance with this requirement, the eLearning program must ensure that:
- the learner can control content sequencing (i.e. topics can be viewed in any sequence once completed)
- the learner can control content presentation speed
- the learner can access learning support (interaction with a qualified instructor) and technical support without constraint
- the learner has the ability to repeat sections as required prior to undertaking tests and/or quizzes
7.3. Conditions of learning
Learning occurs in a series of learning events (i.e. activities that afford the learner the opportunity to increase their knowledge) within an instructional unit. Instructional units must be structured to include at a minimum:
- clear statement of objective(s)
- overview of instructional materials to be used for the particular unit
- recall of prerequisites (context setting)
- optional items (e.g. pre-tests, recall questions from previous units, other forms of activities to reinforce prior learning)
- provision for learning evaluation(s)
- unit summary
8. Instructional content design
All eLearning programs must adhere to the following:
- the instructional content is relevant to the learning outcomes
- the layout of information on the screen is simple, clear and free from clutter
- visual elements on-screen are well separated with adequate white space (i.e. good contrast)
- instructional materials are accurate, current and where necessary, referenced and copyright cleared
- the subject material is written with respect to the target audience (e.g. use of terms, language, readability, clarity)
All multimedia presentations must adhere to the following:
- instructional content presented in multiple media are complementary (i.e. messages do not have to be identical, but can be a summary of one another)
- no conflicts between the information presented in different forms of media
- media is used to reduce the learner’s cognitive load through reinforcing, supporting and summarizing instructional content to support learner cognitive processes
- the learner is not confused or distracted by having to focus on separate areas of the screen simultaneously
- the learner’s attention is focused on the section of the screen that must be attended to
- media controls are standard, simple and consistent across the entire eLearning program and allow the user the degree of control the instruction requires
Text included in the program must ensure that:
- lists and other visual organizers are used to reduce dependencies on large quantities of text on the screen
- instructional materials are free of bias, discriminatory or defamatory material
- instructional materials are free of spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors
- acronyms and abbreviations are consistently represented and explained in full when first used
External links can be used to view additional instructional material e.g. YouTube video), or as a reference for supplementary information, where applicable. All instructional materials must:
- be free from broken or incorrect links
- provide a feature within the eLearning program to report broken links (e.g. a button to contact the instructor)
- clearly identify links using the standard hyperlink format (e.g. underlined text that can be clicked to jump to a specified target location)
- provide a description or summary of what the learner should expect to see when clicking on a link
8.5. Audio, video, animation and playback
Visual representations are important to maintain the attention of a learner. The following must be adhered to when incorporating these formats:
- animation is restricted to instructional content and the background is free from distracting images or animations
- video and/or animation plays without stutter or dropped frames and audio remains synchronized with the video images at all times
- audio is recorded and presented such that background noise is minimized
- voice quality is adequate to understand speech clearly (voice playback is not muffled or distorted)
- sound may be turned on or off and the volume control is accessible on-screen
- playback is error-free
- screens and pages load quickly, and where plug-ins are required, automatic prompts for installation are provided
- all text, characters and symbols render correctly on playback devices
- text, images and diagrams are clear and large enough that they are legible at the recommended screen resolution
- captions and transcripts are provided for all audio/video content
9. Navigation and usability design
Usable programs are generally efficient, simple to learn, easy to navigate and engaging from a learner’s perspective.
To ease the learner’s navigation and usability of the eLearning program:
- menu structures must be “shallow and wide” (e.g. have a few levels but with many selectable items at each level) in preference to “narrow and deep”
- scrolling content must be avoided wherever possible, on the basis that it may potentially conceal content from the learner and result in content being missed
- the learner must be protected from accidentally exiting the eLearning program (e.g. “are you sure you want to exit?” confirmation window is presented)
- each screen must have a unique title
- the position of the learner within a sequence of screens within an instructional unit must be indicated
- the position of the learner within the overall eLearning program must be indicated (e.g. program map)
- the status of instructional units (e.g. not started, started, completed) must be clearly visible to the learner
- clear indicators must allow the learner to easily keep track of where they are in the eLearning program
- navigation controls must be simple, intuitive and consistent in naming, performance and screen location. Controls must be defined to facilitate keyboard-only navigation.
- controls must exist to allow the learner to:
- move forward and backward through screens, as well as replay current screen if necessary
- control video with play, pause, stop and volume controls
- move up to the menu that presents multiple units of instruction
- controls such as help, glossary or setup must be available throughout the eLearning program and operate on a “call and return” principle, where the learner is returned automatically to where they were in the program upon completion of the operation (rather than forcing the learner to navigate back to their place in the program)
- appropriate accessibility guidelines must be adhered to, as per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 standards level AA (as published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2008). If the program is being designed to be accessed via mobile devices, WCAG 2.1 requirements must applied.
10. System design requirements
Technical support, help or other forms of troubleshooting assistance must be provided to learners accessing the eLearning program. This support must be available when the learner is:
- using a web browser
- logging into a Learning Management System (LMS)
- accessing external program components
10.2. Reporting system performance issues
The learner must be provided with accurate contact information to be used as needed to:
- obtain technical help during the eLearning program or to report technical problems
- contact the eLearning program facilitator or designate to report problems or submit queries regarding the instructional content of the eLearning program
10.3. Hardware specifications
Minimum hardware specifications to run the eLearning program shall be stated to the learner before the training begins.
Specifications must include:
- optimal screen resolution recommendation
- required and optional peripherals (e.g. speakers/headphones)
- recommended bandwidth
10.4. Software components
Minimum software specifications to run the eLearning program must be stated to the learner.
Specifications must include:
- recommended browser version
- non-standard plug-in requirements (e.g. Adobe Acrobat, Flash Player, Java)
- recommended graphics capabilities
Appendix A: glossary of terms
- Blended learning
- Describes the practice of using several training delivery methods in a single training program. It typically refers to the combination of classroom instruction and eLearning.
- Cognitive load
- The mental work imposed by a learning environment or object. Since we have limited mental capacity, content needs to be designed so as not to overload our cognitive processes nor impose mental work that is irrelevant to the learning goals.
- A measure of compatibility and assimilation of elements.
- An accredited component of a curriculum.
- Distance learning
- An educational situation in which the instructor and learner are separated by location. Education or training courses are delivered to remote locations via synchronous or real-time instruction.
- An incorrect option in a multiple choice test.
- eLearning (electronic learning)
- A term covering a wide set of applications and processes that includes web-based learning or computer-based learning.
- Formative testing
- Refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of learner comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course.
- Instructional design
- Systematic method of planning, developing, evaluating and managing instruction to ensure competent performance by the learner.
- Instructional unit
- A lesson and/or activity within a learning module that facilitates the achievement of a desired learning outcome.
- Learning event
- An activity which affords the learner the opportunity to increase his or her knowledge.
- Learner practice
- The act of engaging in an activity again and again for the purpose of improving or mastering a skill or learning concept.
- A series of instructional units that can be measured, evaluated and assembled to form complete courses.
- Summative testing
- Used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a module or training program. In other words, to determine whether students have learned what they were expected to learn.
- Training provider
- An individual, sole proprietor, corporation or not-for-profit organization delivering training.
- Easy to use and understand
This eLearning Instructional Guidelines document outlines the minimum criteria that are expected of eLearning components of training programs, where eLearning is permitted in full or as part of a training program that is submitted to be approved by the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). This document is to be used in conjunction with a related Training Program Standard established by the CPO.
CPO approval is granted to those programs that meet the eLearning Instructional Design Guidelines and the applicable Training Program Standard after a successful assessment and review of the program submitted. While reasonable efforts are made to ensure that the criteria of the eLearning Instructional Design Guidelines and Training Program Standard are maintained throughout, it is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In determining what rights or obligations a party may have under the legislation, reference should always be made to the official version of the Act and the regulations.