Nicola Tyzack, Charity L&D Professional of the Year, chats to Susie Finch about learning technologies, Moodle, MOOCs and meThe National Autistic Societyntoring…

Nicola is the Organisational Development Administrator at the National Autistic Society.

Tell us about your eLearning journey e.g. when did you first use eLearning for staff development – was it a success? What did you learn from the experience?

We first started using eLearning at the National Autistic Society in 2009, when we joined the Charity Learning Consortium. It wasn’t an overnight success as I don’t think we really knew what we had! It began as a means to offer our staff IT training, but when we dug a bit deeper and realised what opportunities there were with the site, it grew from there. It took a considerable amount of time to get it off the ground and we had to re-launch more than once, but we learnt a lot from the experience. We now get our local supervisors a lot more involved to ensure that practical help is available for staff and that the site it championed in as many ways as possible.

What has been your greatest success? What has been your greatest challenge?

I think my greatest success was also my greatest challenge! This was the upgrade of our Moodle site that took place in April/May 2014 – when we moved from version 1.9 to 2.6. Although I was supported by the Consortium, at the National Autistic Society I did all the work on my own. It was pretty hard going! When it was completed I was very proud of what I’d achieved. The feedback on the new site has been great, which has made all the hard work worthwhile.

What learning technologies are catching your eye and why? What excites you for 2015 and beyond?

Personally I’m interested in MOOC’s and hope to undertake one myself at some point. I just need to find the perfect topic out of the many available! I use WebEx technology a great deal for my work and although this is nothing new, I think it’s something that needs to get bigger and be used more in learning and development in general. The possibilities for using it for training and learning are immense.

You’ve written some guides to using Moodle, to share with other members of the Consortium. Has Moodle helped you save time and money, and if so, how?

As with most other organisations, we’ve been in the position of having to step back from delivering face to face training – unless of course it’s essential – and this has meant a greater need for the use of online options. We’ve increased the amount of online courses and now have many that are mandatory for our staff. By increasing the online options, this has meant more blended learning is taking place and that staff can do the relevant courses when they can fit them into their schedules and without the need to travel elsewhere. They really appreciate this flexibility.

Please tell us about your new mentoring role. Do you have any role models that have helped you get where you are today?

I’m a Certified Online Learning Facilitator and have a particular interest in WebEx training and facilitation, and use this method to deliver my technical training for Moodle. I met Jo Stephenson – L&D Manager at Addaction and a fellow member of the Charity Learning Consortium – on a WebEx session with the Learning & Performance Institute. Jo was interested in my experiences, in the software at the National Autistic Society and how I’ve used my qualification. I’d heard about the mentoring scheme at the Charity Learning Consortium and thought it would be a good opportunity to not only help Jo, but to also be part of the Consortium’s mentoring scheme at the same time. I’m currently coaching one of my colleagues at the National Autistic Society too, so it seemed like a natural progression to offer this support to someone externally.

I’d say that Jo Cook is a role model to me as she has given me loads of advice around online facilitation and has been very supportive of me personally and my ongoing use of WebEx delivery for learning.

Congratulations on your Award – what does this mean to you, and to the work that you do?

Receiving this award was a massive surprise! It means a great deal to me in terms of my work as the Consortium only sees a small proportion of what I do – so to consider that it was worthy of this award shows that I must be going in the right direction.

It’s a lovely surprise for me to be named L&D Professional of the Year, as L&D is not really my background. I work mostly on the technical side of things – this is where my interest and passion lies, with the backend system work and how it fits together. I totally appreciate all the learning and development aspects of eLearning, but it’s the technical side that excites me!

National Autistic Society eLearning fact file:

Number of staff at The National Autistic Society: Approx 3,500

Number of Volunteers: Approx 1,250

Number of offices/locations: Approx 140 (includes services / schools / offices)

The National Autistic Society eLearning Zone has had more than 5,280 logins to date – an incredible increase in 12 months, from 4,100 registered at the end of October 2013. This is made up of staff and volunteers as well as the people we support, meaning we have a great diversity and variety of people undertaking our eLearning.

Between September and October 2014 more than 3,000 users visited the site. These are both new and returning visitors. The number of sessions in that time period is 5,440 (a session equates to the period of time a user is actively engaged with the site). From this we can take that there has been both an increase in traffic on the site, and that people seem to be more engaged in undertaking eLearning as part of a blended approach to their ongoing L&D at the National Autistic Society.

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. To find out more please join us on 4 March 2015 – or connect with us on twitter @charitylearning. We also love to chat, so do please give us a call on 08451 707 702