Finding fresh ways to meet changing needs
Good Roads has been dedicated to improving municipal roads and associated infrastructure for more than 129 years. The organization has close to 450 members, including the majority of Ontario’s municipalities, a growing number of First Nations communities. In addition to these members, there are more than 200 affiliated corporate members in the transportation and infrastructure sectors.
“Education really is our bread and butter,” explains Scott Butler, executive director of Good Roads. “We serve around 2,500 learners every year and offer more than 70 different courses, covering everything from how to properly fill potholes to tendering major construction projects.”
In recent years, Good Roads has seen a marked change in its learner base and their educational needs, driven by a host of factors, including changing job roles, regulations and technology. It prompted the organization to consider a new approach to course delivery, which until then had been carried out almost entirely in person.
“In the last 20 years, we’ve seen more change taking place in this space than in the previous two millennia,” says Butler. “To meet these new needs, our approach to learning had to evolve too. Putting our courses online would open them up to a much wider audience. The opportunity to learn at a self-directed pace from any location fundamentally changes the dynamics and financial considerations of training, making our educational offerings more accessible to all communities. This is especially important for smaller, resource-strapped municipalities and First Nations.”
Forming a fruitful partnership
Recognizing the significance of transitioning to online education, Good Roads understood the importance of selecting a robust learning management system (LMS). Following careful deliberation and evaluation of various potential partners, the organization made the strategic decision to collaborate with D2L, confident in their ability to provide the necessary tools and support for this transformative journey.
“We’re delighted with the decision we made,” confirms Butler. “Our partnership has been beneficial in ways that we didn’t even anticipate at the outset. For example, D2L has turned us on to new funding opportunities. Helping us secure funding from the government of Ontario through the Skills Development Fund was consequential for us as an organization.”
Inspiring new ways of learning
Good Roads started small, introducing a select group of online learning opportunities. They included an all-new micro-credential, which the organization was able to launch in just a few weeks.
“The government of Ontario had developed a new tool that allowed municipalities to determine whether they needed to apply specific restrictions to roads,” explains Butler. “They asked us to design a rapid course to educate users about the tool. We were able to develop this micro-credential from scratch in a matter of weeks.”
He adds: “The government was hoping to get maybe 40 municipalities to register for the micro-credential and we’re at about 109 currently, so we’ve definitely exceeded expectations. It’s a great testament to the power of having an online learning presence. Now that we have the right technology in place, we can develop new learning experiences very quickly and make sure they really resonate with our members.”
Online training takes off
Good Roads has been able to effectively translate highly applied and hands-on training into an online context. The organization has been steadily building up its course catalogue. Today, trainees have access to 75 unique courses. An increasing number of these are being delivered on Brightspace.
What’s more, Good Roads has been able to grow its e-learning footprint in an incredibly efficient way. “We’re running 75 courses a year with just three staff and volunteer instructors,” notes Butler. Given the capacity, Good Roads leveraged a range of D2L services to support the creation, curation and launch of a course.
We were new to the online learning game and so we needed somebody to work in lockstep with us. D2L came with the expertise and the capacity to refine our thinking, give us a plan of action for implementation, and then allow us to connect with our existing processes and products in a way that would be efficient.Scott Butler, executive director, Good Roads
Those new online offerings have been a runaway success. Since the launch of classes, Good Roads has seen online learner numbers roughly double every month, with more and more people convinced by the strength of its e-learning offerings.
“One of our biggest courses focuses on road construction and maintenance,” states Butler. “In a typical year, we might train 600 people in that course. This year, we’re seeing that almost half of them are opting for the online method.”
“These are frontline folks—a group that you might not necessarily think of as the most tech-savvy or comfortable with online learning. But we’re seeing that for almost half of them, online is their preferred mode of education delivery. And we’re excited to help satisfy that need.”
Building a bridge to the private sector
In a relatively short span of time, Good Roads has been able to turn online learning into as big a revenue earner as its established in-person offerings, all while unlocking completely new revenue streams.
“We’ve been able to market our online courses in a way that’s reaching new audiences,” comments Butler. “For example, private sector companies are taking our online courses at a rate that’s completely unprecedented in our 129 years of history. It reinforces the fact that we’re providing quality content that resonates not just with public sector entities but also with the business community.”
This recent development is helping Good Roads fulfill a longtime strategic ambition: establishing closer links between the public and private sectors.
“When you think about a road, there’s obviously a lot of important commercial activity that takes place there, but we always found it harder to engage with those private stakeholders than with the public sector,” says Butler. “This is the first time we’re seeing that bridge built, where we’re connecting to both public and private interests and realizing there’s far more common ground than anybody appreciated previously.”
Reaching First Nations communities
Taking training online has allowed the organization to strengthen its ties to another important audience: Ontario’s First Nations.
“Online learning has democratized access to our educational resources and training for communities that are really far afield,” remarks Butler. “They might not have the ability to put somebody up in a hotel far away to attend in-person training for a week at a time, but now they can access our online courses from anywhere, at a pace that suits them.”
Good Roads has also begun engaging with key First Nations stakeholders in Ontario to start adapting some of its key courses to the needs of First Nations audiences.
“First Nations communities have their own legislative and regulatory framework, and they’re dealing on a nation-to-nation level with the federal government,” explains Butler. “So, when we’re thinking about these communities, we need to take some of those regulatory or legislative aspects of our curriculum and refocus them. D2L gives us the flexibility to make that happen, so we can easily design those courses with a different set of requirements in mind.”
Learning without limits
These are just the first steps for Good Roads. The organization sees huge potential for expanding online learning to all corners of Ontario, and even outside its borders, bringing vital training and knowledge to communities across the entire country and establishing partnerships internationally.
“Working with D2L to establish our e-learning presence has allowed us to connect with communities in ways that we’ve never been able to before, which is incredibly powerful,” concludes Butler. “We feel like we’re just on the cusp of a transformation that’s going to take learning to places we never dreamed. We’re excited to embark on that journey together with D2L.”