By: Michael Smith, Senior Firefighter/EMT Wixom, MI, Fire Department The challenges facing today’s fire service are ever changing from the complexity of incidents to the increased demands for service. The fire service today needs firefighters and leaders who can evaluate critical issues under these conditions and make clear and reasonable judgments by reflecting on academic knowledge and experiences; therefore, reducing the chance of error. Online training allows firefighters to have control of their education and attend when they can... As we look at the next generation of firefighters and leaders and those that want to be, what will be the common characteristics for leadership positions or even what educational requirements will there be? As leadership positions have become even more competitive many organizations require a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree for chief fire officer instead of tenure with the organization. Even in some fire departments to be a company officer requires an associate’s degree. The question then is what is the best method of training or teaching the new generation of firefighters to meet these needs? If we drill down even further the more important question is how do we engage the minds of firefighters to teach them valuable knowledge and skills needed for the fire service in the future? Is it online firefighter training? Is it traditional methods? Do online courses or traditional courses allow students to assimilate, synthesize and then apply new information needed to enhance the learning experience? Do online courses or traditional courses allow the use of multiple personal digital devices that many have become accustomed to by sharing information almost instantaneous through social interactions? The benefits of online firefighter training, in comparison to the traditional classroom is that each firefighter has the ability to accomplish their degree at their pace even with their unconventional schedules. Online training allows firefighters to have control of their education and attend when they can instead of a fixed schedule having to attend a lecture in a traditional setting at a set time and place. Online training affords firefighters the ability to view the online lecture or video as many times as needed verses the traditional method of lectures. Online allows those who are attending training to be in any type of environment virtually anywhere that meets their needs without the set location of the classroom and distractions that they have no control over. Many online learning platforms offer scenario-based learning that is relevant to what firefighters need to know today and for tomorrow. Online training allows firefighters the ability to communicate the course content with others virtually anywhere in the world for a different perspective. Online training can provide almost instantaneous feedback on assessments to increase scores and retention. Online training fees are more cost efficient than traditional fees. Online firefighter training affords firefighters and leaders an opportunity to obtain their education or degree virtually anywhere while still being able to meet the demands of life. Bio Michael Smith is a Senior Firefighter/EMT for the Wixom Fire Department outside of Detroit, Michigan and a 20-year veteran of the automotive industry. He operates the extrication website Boron Extrication where he blends his automotive and fire service experience together. Smith has taught extrication at the Fire Department Instructors Conference and across the United States. As a continual student, he will be starting his Masters in Organizational Leadership at Columbia Southern University in the summer of 2015.