Idaho Rural Water Association (IRWA) transformed its training offerings from a travel-heavy, in-person model to a technology-first approach that serves both local and remote participants. Leveraging video conferencing technology to broadcast training programs provides members more opportunities to access the learning required to move their careers forward.
Neurilink Provided IRWA AV Solutions for:
Idaho Rural Water Association (IRWA) is a 501©3 non-profit which provides technical assistance, training and a representative voice for the benefit of Idaho’s drinking and wastewater utility systems. Their membership consists of over 350 direct member systems.
In 2020, IRWA moved from their existing space to a new facility in Boise. Their previous building was about 2,600 sq. ft. including the warehouse, and their audio visual technology consisted of a projector in the conference room.
The IRWA team traveled across the state to provide training programs to their members. The IRWA team would host the same class in two or three different parts of the state in the same week. IRWA’s rural focus paired with Idaho’s vast geography meant significant hours were required for travel.
Furthermore, certification reviews (required for licensing) were hosted one time per quarter in different parts of the state, giving operators a single opportunity to participate locally. If they had a schedule conflict, they would have to travel to another part of the state for the certification review a few months later.
The content IRWA teaches is dynamic and often hands-on. Their collaboration technology consisted of a traditional audio-only conference system, therefore providing classes remotely was not an option.
IRWA received a grant for their new facility which included technology-connected conference rooms and a new training center to offer hands-on instruction.
Even before COVID, IRWA had realized the value of video collaboration and planned it into their new space. They approached us to design and install their conference room AV technology. We developed a solution utilizing the Zoom platform, which lets IRWA connect their team for staff meetings. They also use the system for meetings between their staff and board members who are spread out across the State.
Initially, the new training room facilitated in person, classroom-based education. Participants would move to the warehouse for the hands-on portion of the training.
The warehouse is equipped for demonstrations and features a fully charged water line. IRWA could finally host training in their very own facility instead of utilizing other city buildings!
Then COVID hit.
Like all of us, COVID brought a new set of circumstances IRWA had to navigate. How could they continue offer training and apprentice programs, since traveling to Boise was no longer an option?
Thinking on their feet, the IRWA team applied for a second grant, this time for technology. IRWA came to us to design a functional, easy-to-use solution that would enable them to pivot to a hybrid training model.
The training room solution is designed for presenters to train both in-room and remote participants in the same session. The system features dual-displays, allowing those in the classroom to see both the content and remote attendees. Professional speakers, microphones and cameras enable the in-room attendees to collaborate with those remote participants.
In addition, a third display was mounted at the back of the room. This empowers the presenter to better engage with in-room and remote attendees simultaneously. Instead of referencing the podium laptop or displays on the wall behind them to stay on track, presenters can see their presentation on the wall in front of them. A camera is mounted next to the display so the presenter can speak to both the in-room and remote attendees without sacrificing the learning experience of one of the groups.
The warehouse space acts as an extension of the training room, accommodating overflow should the need arise. When this is necessary the presenter’s content and video is shared from the training room to the warehouse via Zoom. The warehouse can also serve as an independent meeting space where trainers perform live demonstrations of water treatment cases over video.
More opportunities for operator certification and other training:
IRWA previously hosted certification reviews quarterly in different parts of the state. This gave operators a single opportunity to participate locally and presented scheduling conflicts for some members.
Now, operators have more opportunities to attend the certification review and other training sessions- giving them the option to choose the one that works best for their schedule.
Expanded reach for apprenticeship
Taking the leap to a technology-enabled training program was no small feat. IRWA CEO, Shelley Roberts, met with several different organizations before moving forward with the plan. Her recommendation for those exploring training solutions is to learn what technology options work best for your organizations. “The virtual technologies catapulted us into a new area. They’re working better than anticipated, so don’t be afraid of it,” said Roberts.
She also talked about the value in finding an AV partner who offers a service agreement. While she did mention it took awhile to fully embrace it, our Elite service program is now an important component to their ongoing adoption and user experience. “If we have a problem we call [Neurilink] and they contact us right away. The response time is really good.”