St John Ambulance Canada – September 2019

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ST. JOHN AMBULANCE CANADA: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN FIRST AID


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DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION FOR VOLUNTEERS AND LEARNERS AT ST. JOHN AMBULANCE CANADA WRITTEN BY

WILLIAM SMITH PRODUCED BY

JAMES BERRY


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JAMES WILLIAMSON, DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY, AND SHAWN MCLAREN, CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER, DETAIL THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OCCURRING AT ST. JOHN AMBULANCE CANADA

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cross the globe, organizations are employing technology to find new and improved ways of conducting their

operations, with benefits on offer to both the 04

newest startups and the most venerable institutions. St. John Ambulance Canada (SJA) can trace its lineage back over 900 years, with the modern Canadian organization founded in 1883. The charity is dedicated to helping Canadians via health and safety training courses and first aid volunteers. “We have two different aspects to what we do,” says Shawn McLaren, Chief Learning Officer. “One is first aid training. We train over 500,000 people a year in first aid and CPR. There are various advancement courses – anything from a basic one-day course to courses that are 80 hours long teaching advanced first responder skills. The other side of what we do is our volunteering. We train people to become medical first responders. They still hand over to paramedics when necessary, but they receive upwards of 40 to 80 hours of training


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CLICK TO WATCH : ‘ST. JOHN AMBULANCE CANADA – LEADERS IN FIRST AID AND CPR TRAINING’

to act as a bridge.” To fund its activities,

program of digital transformation

the charity relies on the first activity to

inside the organization. One of the

fund the latter, as Director of Informa-

challenges of operating a national

tion Systems and Technology James

charity, especially in a country as vast

Williamson explains. “We sell first aid

as Canada, is ensuring the smooth

training, and that is then turned into

communication of its constituent parts.

community service via volunteers and

“We are a federated organization where

first aid representatives at, for instance,

each provincial chapter is its own legal

sports venues, conventions, and other

entity, and our national office serves to

outdoor and indoor events. We also

supply the shared enterprise applica-

give back through therapy dog programs

tions. Right now, they are all hosted at

and similar services across the country.”

a data center run by a third party, but

To further support such activities, Williamson has helped to institute a

as part of the digital transformation we are moving to cloud-based services.


“ FIRST AID IS A TRICKY THING IN THAT YOU CAN NEVER HAVE A FULLY ONLINE FIRST AID CLASS BECAUSE THE SKILLS HAVE TO BE OBSERVED” — Shawn McLaren, Director of Operations and Learning, St. John Ambulance Canada

That allows us to get away from expensive, cyclical hardware and capital costs and constant upkeep and maintenance.” Williamson is seeking to build a strong base from which the charity’s activities can be supported. “We’re focusing primarily on foundational changes. We are moving to Office 365 and Dynamics 365 as a core platform since we already had experience with Microsoft’s existing legacy applications. Then, we’re building upon that with a new website integration where we’re

E XE CU T I VE PRO FI LE

Shawn McLaren As Chief Learning Officer, Shawn leads the development of all curriculum as well as the educational process for the organization. In addition to this role, he acts as a national liaison for all matters related to first aid training. Shawn holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education with a specialization in Corporate Development and Knowledge Management. He has over 15 years experience in a variety of roles in learning and development environments in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Prior to joining St. John Ambulance, Shawn was the VP of Learning & Development for Citibank, overseeing the Canadian consumer lending division.

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building a learning management system. Ultimately, we want to look at volunteer management, fundraising, and automating manual workflows.” To support that work, SJA has also been implementing upgrades to its network. “We’re working with Rogers to increase our bandwidth from a 50 Mbps connection to a gigabit. With everything being based in the Cloud, having a stable, symmetrical fiber connection is important.” From these strong foundations the charity can perform its critical functions. 08

On the teaching side of the equation, opportunities have been found to introduce technology to benefit learners, as McLaren explains. “Our new learning management system that we’re planning to bring in will allow us to provide digital badges and an online presence for people to note their certifications, which will speed up the process. We found a partner in D2L that meets all of our external and internal training needs.” An upgraded website is also aiding learning. “We’re reworking our website to a modern UI/UX, making it easier for people to search for courses, providing higher rankings in our SEO for the website and the ability to see


the correlations in the courses people take,” says Williamson. It remains important, however, to ensure a balance is struck between the digital and the physical, particularly in the realm of first aid training. “First aid is a tricky thing in that you can never have a fully online first aid class because the skills have to be observed,” says McLaren. “I’m not certain that we’ll ever see a fully automated online course. We can, however, with the inclusion of our state of the art LMS system, enhance the blended learning experience, and make it more appealing for people to take classes. Our typical first aid classes are two days, but a blended approach allows them to do eight hours of online training at their leisure before attending a full day course.” Such blended learning takes a number of forms at SJA, including a move towards using e-books for teaching. Another advancement takes advantage of an upgraded manikin. “We’re slowly moving towards what are called feedback manikins. They measure the depth and speed of your push, and we’ve been piloting ones that will display that information onto a whiteboard for the whole class. w w w. s j a . ca

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“ THERE’S SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY TO DO GOOD FOR BOTH THE ORGANIZATION AND PEOPLE OUT THERE” — James Williamson, Director of Information Systems and Technology, St. John Ambulance Canada

Adult learners like the idea of gamification, and having races is one of the functions we can do with it, which really engages people.” The future for SJA sees the charity bring its work to new and exciting areas. “We’re expanding to law enforcement, military and aboriginal first aid programs,” explains Williamson. “The goal is not only to be the biggest, but to be the best and to turn that revenue back into community service. We’re also trying to refocus on engaging youth to become lifelong first 11

E XE CU T I VE PRO FI LE

James Williamson James brings 25 years of experience in government, political and private sector IT: House of Commons/ Federal NDP (12yrs), The Bradford Group (5yrs), Disus Software/Atos Canada (5yrs) and Bell Canada (3yrs). James brings a passion for people and end users and sees IT as a customer service role as the foundation to enable departments to meet their needs and focus on core competencies. James has managed many successful software development projects ranging from a $3mn voter outreach system, a successful cloud transformation project as well as development and integrations for several $30+ million ERP projects for US & Canadian multinationals.

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“ THE GOAL IS NOT ONLY TO BE THE BIGGEST, BUT TO BE THE BEST, AND TO TURN THAT REVENUE BACK INTO COMMUNITY SERVICE” — James Williamson, Director of Information Systems and Technology, St. John Ambulance Canada

aiders.” To coordinate that ever-growing stable of volunteers, future innovations will also focus on volunteer communication, as McLaren explains: “There are tools to allow self-check-in and mass communication to volunteers, top-down and bottom-up, that we’re looking to hopefully leverage in 2020.” Ultimately, the transformation occurring at St. John Ambulance is


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always in the service of improving the scope and reach of the functions it provides. “There’s so much opportunity to do good for both the organization and people out there, which is what excites me about my position,” says Williamson. “Success is its own reward, and I look forward to seeing what version two, three and four of our transformation will look like.” w w w. s j a . ca


400-1900 City Park Dr Gloucester ON K1J 1A3 T 1-888-840-5646 www.sja.ca