A Rumination on an Online Course

I recently began taking some additional training to help me be better able to do the job I have and the job I look to have before too long. The training, related to emergency management and disaster mitigation, is available for free online–from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA); I began taking it in response to one of the many demands made upon my place of employment. Being in the line of work it’s in, being in the line of work I’m in, obliges the agency for which I work to do a few things, and, since I am in the position I’m in, I’m the one who gets to attend to at least some of them–such as taking the emergency training.

Yes, I started at the beginning. It’s well outside my major.
Image taken from the FEMA website, used for reporting (and I’m pretty sure it’s public domain, anyway).

In taking the course, I fell back on practices I’d developed as a long-time student. That is, I looked at relevant texts–in this case, printed transcripts of the lessons–and annotated them before sitting for the actual lessons, and I followed along with the lessons as I could with the annotated texts in hand, making adjustments to my own notes along the way. Consequently, I had little difficulty in passing off the in-lesson assessments, and, when it came time to sit for the exam that would solemnize my completion of the course (and offer me continuing education units, which offer was not unwelcome), I passed it off with little difficulty.

That’s not the real point I want to make, though. (It might become so in another blog post, to be sure.) Instead, I want to focus on something I noticed in the course materials. Several of the sections–most of them, even–started out with narratives. Rather than always launching straight into the materials to be taught, the course started out with stories. It’s a course likely to be taken by those who have something direct and explicit to gain from doing so, not the kind of thing that is usually conceived of as admitting of “distraction.” More, the first lesson spends a fair bit of time discussing the history of institutionalized emergency management in the US, giving a story of a different sort as it lays out the legal underpinnings of FEMA and related agencies’ roles. I was surprised to see so much time and attention given to narrative amid a government-made training course–pleasantly, mind, but still surprised. And I find myself wondering at the purposes and effects of it; I know I am hardly a typical student, so my own thoughts are not like to be the most representative on the matter.

There are more courses for me to take, more continuing education units to earn. And I wonder if I will see more stories presented in those courses. If I do, there will be one set of implications to follow, to be certain–as will be the case if I do not, although I do not think I will like them nearly so much. But I look forward to seeing what the case will be.

Care to help underwrite more training for me?


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