NDCSA group of committed individuals at NDCS made a sound business case for eLearning within the organisation. Their efforts paid off, and by focusing on evaluation and clear evidence-based reporting of two pilot projects, they achieved their aim of organisation-wide implementation. Judges of the Charity Learning Awards 2013 were particularly impressed with this planned approach, which set foundations for success and NDCS were declared worthy winners of the award for Organisational Buy-In.

Effective Stakeholder Management is crucial to the success of any project – and that’s certainly true when it came to introducing eLearning at the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). Limited resources meant it was difficult to support all staff using a traditional training approach. It was time to introduce cost-effective eLearning into the mix.

The initial goal at NDCS was to get buy-in from senior management to roll out i-learn – the name given to the new learning management system provided by the Charity Learning Consortium (CLC) – to all staff. Initially NDCS wanted to be able to offer this as a generic learning resource to staff, with the aim that bespoke content could be added over time.

The decision-makers were five executive directors of the charity. Many of the directors were new to eLearning, but demonstrating clearly how the programme could help deliver results ensured i-learn got given the go-ahead.

The i-learn journey for NDCS began in December 2012 when Lisa Warner, Deputy Director of Operations, presented a briefing paper for directors focused on the response to a recent staff survey, which identified a clear need to improve L&D. This could be met via the CLC’s Moodle eLearning platform. The report clearly identified the cost savings – online IT courses alone would recoup the annual subscription fee. Directors agreed that a small pilot could be run and NDCS became members of the CLC in January 2013.

The pilot ran from January to March 2013 and was managed by a business group of senior managers, the majority of whom were supportive of the potential benefits of eLearning. Each manager agreed to nominate up to three members of staff to take part in the pilot and feedback on their experience. Each senior manager also agreed to commit time to undertake at least one course during the pilot.

In March 2013, evaluation of the pilot found that:

  • 96% of staff found i-learn easy to navigate
  • 76% were able to find their course easily
  • 89% stated they found it easy to learn on their computer
  • 89% stated they would recommend the course they completed to a colleague
  • 96% stated that they would undertake another i-learn course
  • 100% either agreed or strongly agreed that they were comfortable in applying what they learnt

Based on this positive feedback, the Executive Board agreed to a larger pilot to 120 staff from the Children, Young People and Families directorate. In July 2013 Sabina Talib, Project Officer at NDCS, was recruited and given responsibility for the larger pilot. Sabina developed a number of support documents, including an A-Z course list and a communications plan which included the launch of the i-learn brand.

Sabina re-launched and continued to develop the i-learn brand. She introduced the concept of incentivising learning via a prize draw and also started a fortnightly newsletter. Staff information sessions were organised in the various offices to promote i-learn.

Several different methods were used to measure the success of the second, larger pilot: Survey Monkey course evaluations enabled reporting on staff L&D, and reports from i-learn itself made it possible to evaluate cost savings and value for money.

In October 2013 Sabina submitted an i-learn progress report to the Executive Board, which highlighted the impact of the campaign. Since re-launch in mid-August 2013:

  • 47 staff members had logged (40%) onto i-learn within a 11 week period
  • 25 courses had been completed
  • 100% of people had reported they found the course useful, that they would use ilearn again and would recommend the course to a colleague.

On the basis of these results, the Executive Board agreed to approve all staff access to ilearn from 1 November 2013. Objective achieved! They also requested work on two bespoke courses. The possibility of rolling the project out to volunteers and casual workers is also being discussed following the annual i-learn review in March 2014.

This is a huge achievement in 10 months. A small group of committed individuals took ilearn from proposal, through an initial pilot, then a larger pilot, focused on evaluation and clear evidence-based reporting to achieve the aim of organisation-wide implementation. There’s still work to be done to increase usage across the organisation, but continued marketing and the planned use of reports for each directorate to encourage staff development are already tackling this.

Sabina Talib, Project Officer at NDCS said: “The National Deaf Children’s Society is delighted to win this award. We are working hard to increase the profile of Learning and Development within NDCS and are lucky to have support at Executive Board level.

“Through effective planning, evaluation and perseverance we have achieved our initial goal of organisational buy-in within a 10 month period. We have some way to go to ensure we create a positive L&D culture within NDCS and will continue to work hard to achieve this.”

Top tips to getting buy-in from the board, from Sabina Talib, Project Officer at the National Deaf Children’s Society:

  • Explain how online learning works and the benefits to the individual and organisation. You can’t win everyone over immediately but you can try to understand their viewpoint and begin to eradicate their fears/ barriers through continual engagement. Focus on those that will engage, ensuring their experience is a positive, taking their feedback on board with an aim to continually improve.
  • Provide options to stakeholders – explain the positives and negatives about on-line learning and also to not having on-line learning. The comparison should help people make a decision, and decisions equate to buy-in.
  • Directors like to understand cost and benefits – so make sure you work out how much training is costing at present and how much you are saving per course by using on-line learning.
  • Establish what your Executive Board regard as ‘success’ in terms of on-line learning – then you can focus on achieving this ‘success’ in order to get buy-in.
  • Bring in or create resources to help deliver your project and keep the momentum going. This momentum will help you engage more effectively, and help keep the project a high priority.
  • Create a brand for on-line learning that is recognisable to staff and continually market your offerings to ensure it is at the forefront of people’s minds. Create a buzz with your marketing and a prize draw – incentivise log-in and celebrate learning!
  • Evaluate learning and regularly report upon usage – utilise your learners to share their learning experience with others.

About the National Deaf Children’s Society:

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and their families. Given the right support deaf children can achieve the same as any other child. There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK. NDCS works to ensure deaf children get the support they need by providing impartial advice to families about the range of communication methods open to them and by campaigning on their behalf.

About the Charity Learning Consortium:

Consortium members save twice as much money on L&D compared to non-members in the sector; are twice as likely to report positive changes in staff behaviour and almost three times more likely to report that using learning technologies has improved their organisation’s productivity. More than 120 charities, housing associations and not for profits already benefit from collaborating with our unique organisation – would you like to find out more? Please go to www.charitylearning.org or connect with us on twitter @charitylearning. We also love to chat, so do please give us a call on 08451 707 702