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CIET turns to virtual training in 11 days – a COVID-19 case study

Following a successful trial run, the Canadian Institute for Energy Training is organizing and promoting the virtual delivery of the its entire training calendar.

April 1, 2020  By Energy Manager Canada


After undertaking a rapid and dramatic shift in operations, Mathieu Côte, executive director of the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET) has posted a blog outlining how the organization rallied in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep its energy efficiency training programs on track.

Côte gave two reasons for posting the article: (1) be a good read in these trying times and (2) hopefully spur others to generate ideas on how to transform and adapt their business models to the current unprecedented situation.

“While the impact on the Canadian Institute for Energy Training activities has been profound, our thoughts go out to the many businesses and employees across Canada who have lost their jobs due to the crisis. We feel fortunate to at least have the opportunity to be working hard to find solutions and make alternative plans – an opportunity that people in many sectors currently just do not have,” wrote Côte.

In brief, Côte was on a business trip on Wednesday, March 11, the day the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The next day, the Quebec provincial government announced banning gatherings of 250 people or more. “We still thought that it would be reasonable and fine to go ahead and deliver our numerous in-person training sessions originally planned for the spring semester across Canada. Our busiest period of the year had just started with a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) course being delivered in Toronto that week.”


But on Friday, March 13, they learned a course originally scheduled to start on Tuesday, March 17 had to be canceled because newly-issued federal directives applied to the client.

CIET scrambled to offer some alternative training sessions and experiment with a full-day virtual real-time classroom for the first time. Using GoToMeeting, they had two instructors deliver the training.

A follow-up survey revealed that the ease of use, quality of interaction and the technical sound and visual quality received positive reviews from the participants.

By March 19, the CIET team was all working from home on modifying the spring training calendar to introduce virtual real-time classrooms. The work included:

  • contacting participants registered for the Certified Energy Manager (CEM) training session scheduled to start on March 30 in Calgary to inform them about the new virtual training approach and to confirm whether they would still attend. 80% confirmed their attendance, 13% rescheduled it to another virtual CEM session in April and only 1 person canceled (due to an unfortunate job loss)
  • ordering higher-quality microphones and webcams for the trainers
  • finding ways to conduct exams through remote proctoring
  • testing multiple virtual training systems, selecting the most appropriate for their needs (GoToTraining) and securing corporate licences
  • developing interactive content (questions, polls, etc.) to make the virtual courses lively and appealing
  • preparing marketing materials to announce the new virtual training calendar to individual learners and partners and respond to their questions

The CEM session (originally scheduled in Calgary from March 30 to April 2) started on time, virtually, and it worked. “As it turned out, our worries about  potential IT problems and glitches linked to virtual training were uncalled-for,” notes Côte.

CIET is now forging ahead to organize and promote the virtual delivery of the remainder of its training calendar.

“I would like to thank our wonderful and capable CIET team members and trainers for their commitment and effort over the past few days in turning a “virtual-classroom-based training calendar” from a vision into solid reality,” said Côte. “Thank you, our valued partners and clients, for your continued support and trust for our new virtual delivery model.”


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