Communicating with the Public for Field Staff Online Course

This online course provides public agency field staff with foundational knowledge and best practices for communicating with a range of public stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Interactions experienced by agency field staff may range from straightforward information exchanges to more complex interactions that may require additional research and follow-up. The course clarifies staff roles and responsibilities regarding public communications, identifies best practices, and addresses a variety of public communication scenarios, conditions, and environments. 

Participants will review proper conduct related to media inquiries, off-duty communications, and a subset of public interactions that involve residents and property owners who are concerned, agitated, or potentially aggressive. After taking this course, participants will have gained an understanding of professional procedures for providing responsive, safe, and effective public service delivery.


Topics Covered

The six-module course covers the following topics:

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Introduction to Representing a Public Agency

This module introduces the roles, responsibilities, and meaning of being a frontline public employee; clarifies the public agency and staff relationship to the public and the staff role as a “face” of the public agency; and emphasizes the importance of understanding individual agency policies, organizational unity, and preserving the chain of communication.

Common Scenarios

This module reviews a broad range of scenarios in varying contexts in which public agency field staff are approached by a member of the public for various reasons and concerns. Scenarios are accompanied by an explanation of the appropriate staff response.

Field Interactions: Simple Inquiries

This module provides an overview of best practices for how public agency staff may respond to public inquiries. Emphasis is placed on understanding each agency’s individual public information policies, behaving in a courteous and professional manner, and “closing the loop” to ensure satisfactory follow-up.

Field Interactions: Complex Situations

This module provides a foundation for handling interactions which involve members of the public behaving unpredictably, including expressing frustration, agitation, and hostility. Course materials emphasize maintaining staff safety and professional demeanor and include a review of de-escalation techniques.

Avoiding Physical Confrontations

This module further explores de-escalation techniques and self-preservation methods; reviews non-verbal and verbal behaviors and emphasizes staff safety.

Conclusion/Key Takeaways

This module reinforces major course concepts, including public agency staff responsibilities, public expectations, and general best practices.

Who Should Take This Course

This course is intended for public agency staff—including permanent, seasonal, and temporary maintenance personnel, technicians, and utility staff. The course may be used as a resource for staff transitioning to an engineering technician role.

Accessing the Course

This training is offered via the course management system Canvas. Upon completing your online registration, you will receive an email confirmation. To access the course, please visit Canvas and log in with your University of Minnesota internet ID and password. Once you have been enrolled, your course will appear on your Canvas dashboard.

If for any reason you do not have access to the course after enrolling, please contact Katherine Stanley at for assistance.

Technical Requirements

Canvas runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or any other device with a modern web browser. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer work best for this course.

If you’re new to Canvas, see tips and resources for using the platform.

Informational Contact

For more information, or if you require special accommodations, please contact Katherine Stanley at or 612-626-1023.


Students will earn 0.5 credit in the Roads Scholar Program Maintenance Certificate and 1.0 credit in the Civil Engineering Tech Level I Certificate. To receive credit, please email your certificate of completion (received in Canvas upon course completion) to


This course is sponsored by Minnesota LTAP at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota LTAP is sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and the Federal Highway Administration.

Course curriculum was developed and compiled by SRF Consulting Group, Inc. in conjunction with a technical advisory panel of Minnesota local agency experts.