Outreach's GEDI continues training amid COVID-19 with online and hybrid programs

Published: March 18, 2021

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The Government and Economic Development Institute, or GEDI, provides training, education and professional certification programs to government agencies, municipalities, non-profits, and businesses. GEDI employees and instructors normally travel the state hosting programs, classes, workshops, and conferences. Many of GEDI’s participants rely on the training to earn or keep professional certifications, to progress on their career paths toward promotions and to receive the knowledge and skills needed to enhance their job performance. When COVID-19 struck, it was clear that the programs had to continue as most of the participants were in essential positions and their education could not be put on hold.

GEDI leadership and staff quickly began discussing options and planning to pivot programs to online offerings. To train in this way, online hosting and testing platforms had to be set up, materials had to be converted, equipment needed to be purchased, and instructors and staff had to be trained on the new technology and procedures. Students had a learning curve too, and GEDI staff members worked to create instructions and tutorials to help them adapt. They communicated with participants regularly to let them know what to expect and to ensure their success.

All the effort has paid off with dozens of programs successfully completed online. GEDI was even able to offer week one of the Intensive Economic Development training course completely online last September and the feedback was extremely positive. Some of the comments received from online participants included:

“Thank you so much for shifting with the current climate and providing this course online. Excellent job!”

“Great course and so thankful we were able to attend in the midst of COVID!”

“Wonderful use of Zoom to make this course possible. The breakout rooms were great in creating relationships since we could not be in-person.”

As companies and organizations started resuming more regular operations, requests for training to be conducted face to face increased. GEDI had to balance these needs with protection for participants and presenters. Every effort was made to ensure safety by socially distancing attendees, using sanitizer and disinfectants, as well as masks, face shields and partitions. GEDI invested again in technology to enhance programs and host hybrid courses, which include online learners as well as a limited number of participants in the classroom. In the fall of 2020, GEDI offered hybrid professional certification programs to members of the Alabama Association of Public Personnel Administrators, or AAPPA. Once again, the feedback was encouraging.

“This was great. I live four hours away and it saved our county money and time.”

“This was one of the most organized class meetings that I have attended online. All the information needed to complete the class was easily obtained and provided well in advance. The speaker did such a great job!”

“I know it couldn't have been an easy task to get everything set up to offer the hybrid format, but it was great. The convenience of not having to travel was also very helpful right now.”

McKenzie Cooper is a Training Specialist with GEDI and one of the people who has been tasked with coordinating online and hybrid educational programs during COVIID-19. “The Hybrid format has been very beneficial to our participants as it allows people across the state of Alabama to continue with their professional learning and development,” Cooper said. “A lot of people have travel restrictions placed on them and their budgets tightened. These courses offer them a big savings because they aren’t having to pay for hotels, meals, and other travel costs. Also, people who have family commitments and can’t leave home are still able to continue their education,” Cooper further explained.

GEDI is committed to serving the citizens of Alabama and to providing the best educational programs possible in whatever format serves them best. For more information about GEDI programs and services, visit www.auburn.edu/gedi.

Submitted by: Jennifer Ryan