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First VIRTUAL Operations Academy a Success

First VIRTUAL Operations Academy a Success

The nationally recognized and highly acclaimed Operations Academy Senior Management Program held its first 100% VIRTUAL program in October 2020.  The global covid-19 pandemic necessitated the change of format, but the facilitators, instructors and participants were resilient, and the program was delivered and deemed a success.  
Feedback from the program was just as positive as a regular in-person delivered program. 
"It was evident from day one that working with dozens of peers over the span of two weeks was an excellent way to glean diverse perspectives and best practices. This collaborative experience elevated the learning opportunities to new levels and made the program valuable and memorable. The focus on operations with a high level of peer involvement is the ideal environment for senior managers to gain confidence, perspective and develop their own strategy to bring back to the workplace. I recommend this program to operations leadership looking to expand their national network while discovering new areas to expand their skillset. By the end of the two-week session, the group had formed a lasting professional network that would stand the test of time." -Janet Frenkil, MDOT State Highway Administration
“Having completed the first virtual Operations Academy, I would absolutely recommend this program to others. The presentations, lessons learned, and meaningful conversations between attendees and presenters provided invaluable information that will help me in my career.” – Mike Davidson, Pennsylvania Turnpike
“Extremely beneficial program that taught me more in two weeks than I have learned in 11 years about TSMO.  Would highly recommend this program to anyone who is brand new or highly seasoned.  The combination of skills that the group brings to the table makes you appreciate the experience or inexperience of others.  Great experience and learned a lot!”– Bethany Waltersdorf, Iowa DOT
The change of format from in-person to virtual, necessitated a different approach to delivering the content.  Instructors could not deliver their materials using a standard PowerPoint presentation and expect participants to remain engaged.  Sitting at their desk staring at their computer makes it very easy for them to become distracted with regular office activities via email.  To keep the valuable in-person time engaging, participants were assigned pre-study materials to review before the start of the program and virtual in-person sessions were used for discussions and breakout sessions to discuss and apply the content they had reviewed earlier.  Research has shown that students (program participants in this case) that are actively engaged in the learning process simply learn more.  They are more attentive and focused and have more meaningful learning experiences. That was the philosophy that program developers adopted to make this first VIRTUAL Operations Academy Program engaging and a productive learning experience for all participants.  
Having access to online TSMO content was a very important component of the success of the virtual delivery.  Program participants had to complete pre-study materials that consisted of pre-recorded sessions via video, readings, and many online TSMO courses offered through the Consortium for Innovative Transportation Education (CITE).  The information provided materials that instructors would have normally delivered in person via a PowerPoint presentation.   
Participants also had to complete special bingo game.  Here’s how it worked.  All participants recorded a short video discussing something that they would not have on their resume.  For example, they love to race cars on the weekends, they like to kayak or they brew beer in their garage.   Those videos were made available to all the other participants.  Then, they received a bingo card with questions, and they had to determine which person was associated with the question.  It was a fun and engaging way for the participants to get to know each other.  
Operations Academy alumni were also a valuable asset in planning the first VIRUAL Operations Academy Program.   In the virtual environment, field visits had to be removed from the program so several alumni came to the rescue and recorded virtual tours of their facilities.  Other alumni recorded videos discussing their experiences and stressing the value of the program. These recordings were provided to all Operations Academy participants.  
With the completion of the first VIRTUAL Operations Academy Program in October 2020, the program now has 501 transportation professionals who have graduated from the program since March 2007 representing 44 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The graduates are an impressive group of individuals who are doing great things for their agencies or organization. The switch to the virtual format for the October 2020 program did not stop anyone from participating and the program was just as successful.   
Due to the uncertainly of the pandemic, the October/November 2021 Operations Academy Program will once again be delivered virtually.  If you are interested in participating or know someone who is interested, please visit the Operations Academy website.   
Below are additional quotes from the October 2020 Program.
“The Operations Academy was an amazing opportunity! As a result, I gained valuable insight on TSMO topics and developed many life-long peer relationships from around the country. I feel that the Operations Academy’s was well worth the time and effort and will greatly benefit me in my career and my Agency for years to come!” - Jason Bodell, Michigan DOT
“I would highly recommend this program to others. It sets a baseline knowledge for all disciplines in understanding the benefits and uses of TSMO and gives you tools to make real change for you, your organization and the traveling public.” - Katrina Kloberdanz, Colorado DOT
“I highly recommend the Operations Academy to transportation professionals interested in advancing their knowledge in TSMO and managing for the future. It requires an investment in your time and energy, but it provides a unique opportunity that is unmatched.” – Sara Ott, Washington State DOT
“Without a doubt, the Ops Academy has reshaped how I view my role in the transportation profession. Each and every one of us now has the ability, and responsibility, to share this insight with others in the field.” Justin Neff, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
“This course provided enough information to make me realize that as a whole DOT's are in their teenage years of TSMO.” - Daniel Driskell, Alabama DOT

March 4, 2021

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