A Case for Online Training

Categories: Innovations, Trends & Technology, Management

By Zainudeen Popoola | August 20, 2018 << Back to Articles

To improve the quality and uniformity of training of new hires and existing staff, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Custodial Services (UNL-Custodial Services) developed a web-based training system. The system is effective, efficient, value-added, and also creates cost savings. The web-based training visually demonstrates custodial techniques and procedures to employees who are then tested and have their scores recorded automatically.

Results from the web-based training confirm that all employees have become more productive in a shorter period of time compared with other types of training. In addition, the use of web-based training has made trainers and supervisors more consistent. Employees are able to view, hear, and interact with the program, resulting in more employee-centric training. A side benefit of the web-based training is improved computer skills for custodians who must use a computer to record their time, relay work information, requisition materials, report problems, and obtain other on-line training.

UNL-Custodial Services projects an additional benefit from the web-based training of reduced employee turnover. Employees tend to stay with an employer longer if they receive training and understand what their jobs are and how to do them. Existing staff will also utilize the system in monthly meetings for in-house training.

Cost savings are realized in the reduction of hours spent training the traditional way, including classroom instruction, demonstrating tasks, grading tests by hand, and tracking the training on numerous forms. It also saves travel time and expenses.

Overall, the web-based training has added value to the teaching, research, and service missions of UNL through more efficient and effective custodial services.

Scope of Work

UNL-Custodial Services is part of the Facilities Maintenance and Operations Department under the university’s vice-chancellor of business and finance. The department is responsible for the cleaning of more than 100 academic and support services buildings.

Chartered in 1869, UNL is a land-grant university and member of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Universities; it is a doctoral/research extensive university.

UNL-Custodial Services has nearly 200 employees to clean more than 8 million gross square feet of space serving over 26,000 students and 3,900 faculty and staff. Its work is spread across two campuses, City and East, which are separated by about 1-1/2 miles with residential neighborhoods in between. Buildings serviced range in age from greater than 100 years old to recently constructed and from extremely complex life science and engineering research to simple storage facilities. The department provides service for more than 20 hours per day with the majority of employees working from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Employee schedules are constantly reevaluated through customer feedback and productivity measures to ensure the most effective deployment of resources.

The custodial services leadership team consists of the director, assistant director, and area managers who provide budgetary, strategic, and managerial guidance to the organization. They identify regulatory and other personnel requirements that can be addressed through training.

Statement of the Initiative

The goal of the UNL-Custodial Services’ training program is to ensure each new custodian has the necessary skills and knowledge to provide professional services to the university community as well as maintain on-going training for all custodial employees. The department depended on numerous trainers to meet with employees on the two campuses to explain procedures, demonstrate techniques, provide hands-on experience, test acquired knowledge, and evaluate performance. The trainers used handouts, lectures, and had numerous paper forms to fill out. The custodial training program is delivered in 15 modules with each segment having a tracking form to be filled out by hand and filed.

The custodial services leadership team members identified a need to improve the quality of training, reduce the amount of paperwork, and improve consistency in the subject matter. They believed that a new delivery system for training was needed. They felt the system should include testing with automatic scoring, and employees should be able to learn tasks at his or her own pace. They believed the delivery method should recognize that there are many languages spoken in the department, but that English could be understood by all employees. They also thought that the existing UNL-Custodial Services manual should remain the foundation for the training, paperwork should be eliminated in favor of electronic records, and the training program should utilize the technical resources of the university wherever possible. They recognized that educational research shows that multiple instructional media is more effective to ensure students’ progress by addressing individual learning preferences. They also agreed that a combination of video, audio, images, and interactive activities is more successful than just text at illustrating concepts for English as a second language learners, who comprised approximately one-third of the staff.


After UNL-Custodial Services determined the need for an online version of the manual and acquired funding, it contacted Nebraska Educational Television (NET) Interactive and Educational Media, the state’s public radio and television stations, to produce the web-based training site. Meetings were held between UNL-Custodial Services managers and administrators and a senior producer at NET to create an outline. The NET senior producer developed the script to deliver the content in 12 modules and to illustrate it with videos, images, audio, interactive activities, tests, and go/no-go progress reports.

After the script was revised and approved by UNL-Custodial Services, NET’s team taped videos and photographed UNL-Custodial Services personnel performing specific tasks. Two professional actors were hired to record audio, which runs through 95 percent of the script. The web production team edited the videos and created HTML pages using the UNL’s template, including videos, slide shows, interactive activities, and tests for the canvas progress reports. The system was integrated with the campus canvas system, using university specialists as advisors.

As modules were completed, UNL-Custodial Services executives and managers proofed the work, and NET made the final revisions. UNL-Custodial Services plans for its online training experience to be an ongoing, living entity. When production of the online experience was completed, NET assisted in the training of the school’s custodial supervisors and area managers regarding how to use the website to train employees. This training, too, will be ongoing.

Ongoing Benefits

Cleaning an institution supported by limited public funds requires an effective, efficient employee training system that uses modern techniques, methods, and equipment.

The custodial training online experience program develops UNL custodians with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide professional cleaning services in a cost-effective and efficient manner. It enhances an extensive training program that is designed to meet five objectives: explain procedures, demonstrate techniques, provide hands-on experience, test acquired knowledge, and evaluate performance. It meets the facilities management and planning vision of providing effective, economic, and innovative facilities services and solutions through people and systems, that are accessible, friendly, and responsive.

Benefits of the online training system are seen in responses from custodial employees. While employees still take time during the workday for training with their supervisors, including taking of tests, because the system is online, employees are practicing and/or reviewing the training at home; in addition, they are sharing what they do with family members, creating greater pride in the work they do on campus.

About the Author.

Zainudeen Popoola MREH. ICE-T President IEHA a division of ISSA.