The NSW Environment Protection Authority has developed an engaging conversational learning program to support professional development in the organics sector.
Simulated conversational experiences, or chatbots, have been gaining traction across numerous industries.
Conversational learning is a unique concept that delivers knowledge in focused, micro-learning chunks, requiring only three to five minutes of a learner’s time. It aims to put learners in control, use conversation and story-telling to stimulate engagement, build knowledge and allow for active discovery and decision making.
With an increase in chatbot messenger apps offering instantaneous customer service, news and other relevant notifications, chatbot experiences are even making inroads in the waste sector.
To support the compost industry, e-learning provider IMC has been working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) via its organics program. IMC and the EPA have developed four-five minute chatbot modules dubbed “Let’s Chat Compost” on the topics of assessing odour, pasteurisation, composting and managing contamination.
The learning sessions aim to simulate ordinary conversations, akin to those you’d have with a friend or colleague – personal, fun and to the point. They embed personality into the learning content and create a dynamic interaction like one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive e-learning “in dialogue” possible.
The Let’s Chat Compost modules allow users to continue or refresh their learning through the EPA’s existing Compost Facility Management eLearning program, released at the end of last year.
Presented in social media messenger style, the app uses conversation and memes to engage learners to expand on their composting knowledge.
The Compost Facility Management course comprises seven modules and has been designed for regulators and people in all roles working in organics facilities. It uses interactive content, animation and video to engage learners, with the aim of embedding high-level skills and knowledge for best practice facility management.
IMC has leveraged its expertise from working with clients such as National Rugby League, the Department of Health and Human Services, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi to craft unique and conversational learning experiences.
Amanda Kane, Organics Manager at the NSW EPA, says Let’s Chat Compost aims to draw attention to the key processes most relevant to processors, regulators, local government, consultants and waste collection operators.
“Let’s Chat Compost will be a tool to reinforce learning and act as a reminder for what’s happening inside a compost pile that might be causing an odour, or why it’s important to manage contamination and the importance of pasteurisation,” Amanda says.
“IMC’s concept was developed in Germany and designed to look as much like a phone chat as possible. It was in recognition of the platforms we use in everyday life.”
She says that developing smartphone nuggets is an exercise in communicating the most important content in an engaging way.
“The main goal of the nuggets is to get people to take up the course, but also as a reminder for those that have completed the course,” Amanda says.
The app can send notifications to those who have completed the course, encouraging them to share the modules with their colleagues or revisit aspects of their learning.
Amanda adds that companies could adapt the program to suit their organisational tone and include additional relevant occupational health and safety and company information.
“The result is not only contributing to the production of a quality product, but upskilling the industry and minimising the environmental impact of one’s operations.
“It’s critical that processors are operating within the conditions of their license, and that if any issues do arise, they know how to respond and communicate with the EPA and advise us what’s happening.”
She says that the smartphone nuggets are aimed to be accessible on multiple devices and link back to course content.
The modules also include expert tips from industry leaders such as SOILCO and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL).
“We wanted to have industry voices to communicate those messages. All of the course content was filmed at sites around NSW using various technologies,” Amanda says.
“These include ANL’s open windrow or the in-tunnel systems that JR Richards & Sons have up at Grafton and then using team members at all levels to communicate the message, including EPA regulatory staff as well.
“We have had 300 people sign up, and the overall feedback is that people are finding it to be a rewarding learning experience.”
EVA Environmental Director Geraldine Busby, who also worked on the initial training course, oversaw the development of smartphone nuggets.
Carmen Locke, Instructional Designer, IMC AG, says conversational learning allows learners to make decisions while being actively immersed in a one-on-one learning scenario. This increases their ability to retain content, understand concepts and develop new skills and behaviours.