This screenshot shows the title page for Seamen’s Church Institute’s free, interactive e-learning course, focusing on best office policies for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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Seamen’s Church Institute Offers Free Online COVID-19 Office Course

The Seamen’s Church Institute wants to help businesses whose employees are returning to the office by offering a new, free e-learning course on limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Titled “COVID 19 Office Policies and Best Practices,” the roughly 10-minute course reviews information from the Centers for Disease Control on such topics as appropriate hand-washing, cleaning and disinfecting, face mask use and social distancing.

SCI e-learning manager Jonathan Burson and Lisa Nally, business relations coordinator, came up with the idea for the course together and spent hours over the past month putting it together. With many companies’ shoreside personnel beginning to return to work, it was important to them to have the new course ready for them when they came back to the office.

“A lot of our industry already has learning management systems, so they have their own systems through which they can deliver and track training,” Burson said. “We wanted to give those companies that SCI interacts with a package that they could then upload into their system and be able to enroll their people in and have them take it and also be able to track their completions through it.”

It is also open to other companies interested in offering it to their employees.

The course presents information through easy-to-read text, graphics and animations as well as embedded video. It also links to additional information from health professionals.

“Our philosophy is to keep things short, sweet and to the point,” Burson said.

The first half of the course explains the need for companies to have certain policies in place during reopening and what to expect, Burson said. The second half explains what best practices individuals within the company can follow to ensure their safety and that of others while at work.

The information is general enough that it should fit into any office environment, Burson said.

The course was a natural fit for Seamen’s Church because it directly supports its mission to improve mariners’ health and safety through education and training, SCI director of communications Nancy Van Epps said.

“Recently, you heard all these good news stories of people helping out (during the pandemic),” Van Epps said, mentioning people sewing cloth face masks or manufacturing personal protective equipment. “Basically, our e-learning team and Center for Maritime Education leadership just decided to do what we do well.”

The course offering comes at a time when SCI is stepping up its available online educational components. The organization announced a few months ago that it is developing a blended curriculum with online modules that mariners about to receive training at its Centers for Maritime Education in Houston, Texas, or Paducah, Ky., can complete in advance. This means that when they arrive, they can spend less time in a classroom environment and more in SCI’s towboat simulators.

During the height of the pandemic, SCI personnel worked from home on the curriculum and now have 22 different online topics at various stages of completion, Burson said. SCI is taking a phased approach to implementing the online instruction with the full, blended curriculum that is expected to be in place early next year, he said.

SCI plans to reach out to the roughly 40 towboat companies with which it does business over the coming weeks about its offerings, including the free online COVID-19 course. Some social media posts about the course have already gone out, Van Epps said.

A brief video preview of the course is available at Complimentary access to the entire course, which includes record-keeping abilities, may be obtained by emailing Burson at