Charities and businesses alike are being forced to rethink their processes and are facing months of uncertainty in the light of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
As of last night, we are on lockdown in the UK and have to work from home for the foreseeable future. But what does this mean for charities?
We don’t have all the answers. But we do know that, if you have ever considered moving some of your services online or providing opportunities for virtual volunteering, then now is the time to do it.
There are many ways that volunteers can provide valuable support from afar, telephone befriending is a great example. But one of the barriers to charities of moving some services online is that their training processes take place in person.
We have created a handy guide to help you turn your volunteer training into an online process and get started on the journey to online volunteering!
If you are a charity that regularly takes on new volunteers for skilled roles, then you likely have a training process for each new recruit. Perhaps this is delivered as a group workshop or a 1:1 session delivered by a volunteer manager. Instructor led training can vary widely in terms of time-commitment and complexity, just think about how much time and money could be save by digitising these processes?
There are many reasons you might want to convert your existing volunteer training content into an e-learning platform. Aside from the ability to redirect time and money towards other resources, this type of training opens opportunities for online volunteering. A key element of virtual volunteering is that it is completed entirely online and this cannot be the case if the opportunity requires training to be delivered in person.
So, how can you convert your existing volunteer training content into a simple e-learning process?
Take a look over the content that you currently use in your instructor led training. Does it meet your learning objectives as it currently exists, or does it need a bit of a revamp? Consider who will be taking this course and what you want them to get out of it.
Perhaps your existing content is perfectly suitable as is. Don’t assume, however, that it is a simple case of transcribing your current presentations and worksheets into an online platform.
You will need to do work to organise the content into topics, subtopics and assessments, and think of ways to make it interactive away from a classroom environment.
You must also consider how much of the material is actually covered in the course content and how much is conveyed through the knowledge and understanding of the instructor. A lot of the information will be provided through conversation and opportunities for question and answer in a physical classroom. When moving your content online you will need to write this missing information.
Once you have written your content, you will have to break it down into manageable chunks. A good online learning course will be organised into separate topics, broken down into more specific subtopics, and rounded up with an assessment at the end of each module to check your learner’s progress and engagement.
Group your content into themes and consider ways to make the course more interactive. This is key to keeping your learner’s attention, we all know how boring it is to have to read through screeds and screeds of text. Perhaps you want to include some video footage showing your volunteers in action or demonstrate the systems they will be using to fulfil their role. This will give your recruit a more detailed understanding of what is expected of them in their new position.
As with any learning, it is important to track progress and assess your learner’s understanding of the course material. End of unit assessments can be anything from a drag and drop quiz, a written questionnaire, or a multiple-choice survey.
Consider which format works best for your organisation and how you are going to provide feedback to your learners. Perhaps they will not be able to move forward until they have scored above a certain percentage on the quiz, or perhaps you will provide commentary or highlight incorrect answers in a pop-up box.
Ok, so you have written your course content, split it down into topics, and considered effective assessment tools. Now, how do you actually build the damn thing?
There are a lot of platforms around which can help you host an e-learning course. These, of course, vary drastically in terms of functionality and cost. A good free example is Google Classroom which is a little basic but allows you to create assignments, grade and comment on them, and interact with your students. You can add questions and allow either an open or multiple-choice answer, but you cannot create an interactive quiz tool on this platform without the use of a third-party plug in.
If you want to create something a little more sophisticated, platforms such as Thinkific and iSpring Suite allow for a free demo before purchasing to let you get a better feel for their functionality before you commit.
You can find an extensive comparison of the many different e-learning platforms available here. It is worth taking time to define what facilities are necessary to the success of your volunteer training and which are simply ‘nice to have’. This will give you a better idea of which platform is right for you.
These kinds of online courses are ideal for busy volunteers as they can be completed in their own time. However, if you feel that the instructor interaction element of your training is too important to do without, tools such as Zoom are great for providing live webinars and workshops.
Create a presentation explaining the responsibilities and requirements of the role which should last no longer than 2 hours (you can split this into a couple of separate sessions if you must). Set a date and a time to deliver it, and share an invitation with your learners. You can use the chat function to answer any questions as you go.
This is a vital last step before you go live with your new volunteer training course. Aside from testing the platform to make sure the links and embedded videos are all working, and the interactive quizzes are indeed, interactive, it is important to gather a test group of learners to try out the course.
It is a good idea to ask people who haven’t been involved in the creation of your course, or who are perhaps unfamiliar with your organisation, to test your online course for you. After they have completed it, you need to assess if they have found the course intuitive, easy to understand and use, and useful as a tool to prepare for a volunteer role. Essentially, has it effectively delivered your desired learning outcomes?
Listen to their feedback and be prepared to go back and edit some sections of your course. Getting this right will help your volunteers better understand the goals and motivations of your organisation and build a team of capable and enthusiastic individuals.
Once you have successfully completed all these steps and received mostly positive feedback from your focus groups, you are good to go! Upload your training course, share the link with any new recruits and remind them that it must be completed before their first day in the position.
If you are providing remote or online volunteering opportunities, remember that is important to provide contact information and stay in touch with your volunteers so that they can easily reach out with questions and are supported in their role.
Will your organisation be creating an online training course? We’d love to hear about it! Keep us updated on your progress in the comments below.
Written by Betty Henderson