Saving One Million Dollars on Web-Based Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Training

CHALLENGE: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives any person the right to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such a record is protected from public disclosure. As this law impacts not only the FOIA office, but every federal agency, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) required a robust training solution that would target and train two separate audiences: government FOIA professionals and non-FOIA professionals. Each of these audiences requires a different level of detailed information to complete its role in a FOIA request process.

The goals of the FOIA courses were to enhance the ability of both audiences to perform their duties as they pertain to the FOIA. For FOIA professionals, this meant a training course that would provide a framework to help them determine how to use and employ the FOIA statute, regulatory requirements, and current governing policies and practices. Non-FOIA professionals, on the other hand, required a highly engaging primer to the FOIA statute that details what records can be requested and how it impacts their day-to-day operations.

SOLUTION: The Vertex Solutions Group (VSG) team provided the following services to DOJ: VSG developed two Level 2 web-based training (WBT) courses by transforming 40 hours of instructor-led training into 4 hours of WBT for FOIA professionals and created a brand new course for non-FOIA professionals. As part of the training, VSG used a series of “talking head” video segments in conjunction with interactive training content to deliver a captivating course. The course features a mentor that guides learners throughout the course. VSG scripted 18, 30-second to two-minute FOIA Insights video segments that feature six current DOJ FOIA staff members discussing a range of topics related to FOIA regulations. The one-hour seat time course for non-FOIA professionals also makes use of the mentor and a more limited number of videos. For all learners, VSG created an informational graphic that plots the FOIA process path from receipt of the initial request through distribution of information to the requestor. This single-page document uses graphic representations and descriptive paragraphs to detail the process at the highest level.

RESULTS: The three pieces that VSG developed in conjunction with a DOJ-produced stand-alone video for government executives have been packaged not only for use across the DOJ but also for other government agencies. The official program was launched in March 2015, and during the first week, DOJ received requests for all course materials from six other federal agencies. DOJ’s estimate in government savings across these six agencies was over one million dollars.