Zachary Rose, CEO, Green Education Services
Zachary Rose, CEO, Green Education Services

Imagine this: After completing some DIY renovation work on your home, you learn that your 5-year-old daughter has elevated levels of lead in her bloodstream. Your doctor recommends that your child immediately start an excruciatingly painful procedure called chelation therapy, which is comparable to chemotherapy for those diagnosed with cancer.

After experiencing the first session of chelation therapy shots, you start researching for contractors to come to your home and make sure the remaining remodeling work is completed using the best practices possible. You find Jon Doe Contractor online who seems like a nice guy, but when he comes over for his initial visit, you learn that he received his certification via an online course.

An online course? To do lead paint-related work that has the potential to permanently damage your daughter for the rest of her life?!

Online vs. Live Classroom Training

This is the reality of the current landscape for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule, and to be candid, that online certification option is scary. What makes it scarier is that the EPA is thinking of expanding beyond currently letting the classroom section of RRP certification to be conducted online training. It’s considering whether to permit the entire re-certification process take place via computer. Here’s why it’s a bad idea.

A California State University professor, in a study published in 2013 in The Journal of Public Affairs Education, suggested that certain types of courses are better taught in person rather than online, in part because some students experience more trouble learning in an online environment. Asynchronous training (such as are found in on-demand online courses) remove three vital parts of learning: being able to ask a question, to share an opinion, or to disagree with a point of view. It is often a student’s interpretation, challenge, or request for clarification of a given concept that serves to memorialize that concept in their minds. The instructor’s ability to relate complex topics by using their personal experience or an anecdote is simply lost in the potentially dry context of a self-guided online training course.

When dealing with a subject as serious as lead-based paint, it goes without saying that learners need to be as engaged as physically possible for the entire training. To achieve this, training for lead paint should be completed in a live, in-person training course.

The EPA currently allows online training for the RRP rule for just the “classroom” portion. That section involves approximately four hours of dense and potentially life-changing information. It is of the utmost importance to have an excellent understanding of that material to be a competent remodeler or home renovator. If just one single slide is misinterpreted, the results can be disastrous.

Say, for example, a contractor needs to set up a door containment system for a space, but he misunderstood how the S-flap needs to fold in on itself. The one tiny oversight ends up allowing lead dust to contaminate the rest of the home being worked on and creates a massive headache for the homeowner, not to mention a very dangerous situation for all of the residents.

It is only with a live, in-person RRP certification course that you can truly grasp all of the concepts present in the EPA’s RRP rule. Having already trained and certified more than 20,000 students, our company has witnessed firsthand thousands of “aha moments” in the classroom setting. Close to 100% of our students are not excited about the training, but once they are in class for five minutes and make that person-to-person connection with their instructor, they are sold on how serious this stuff really is.

Let’s reserve the online anytime training for things like Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and how to bake a cake. For learning about topics that have the potential to ruin someone’s life, live classroom training is the way to go.