Victim SupportA new blended induction programme has been a huge success at Victim Support. Not only has it saved substantial money and engaged staff, managers are now asking for more bespoke eLearning content to be created in-house.

Supporting victims of crime can be sensitive work. So it’s essential that Victim Support’s *6,000 volunteers receive the right initial training in order to carry out the charity’s front line services. In the past this meant a six day, face to face induction programme. But the charity’s L&D team transformed this into a more dynamic, flexible, blended programme to better meet learners’ needs. The project has saved the charity £36,000 in the first year alone, whilst engaging volunteers and managers.

The learning and development team re-built the induction programme as a blended solution – comprising eight, 30 minute eLearning modules, designed in-house to successfully prepare and support learners for a shortened four day course. Various activities, videos and mini scenarios were included, to engage and motivate learners and stimulate discussion once classroom training begins. Assessments and reflective questions were also included, which help managers with accreditation.

Carol Ridlington, Materials Developer at Victim Support, explains: “These bite sized, manageable chunks fit better into a modern flexible lifestyle and because they can access learning at home, volunteers can start training as soon as they’re selected and work at their own pace.”

As part of the new induction plan, volunteers are also now offered access to the Charity Learning Consortium’s entire eLearning suite of more than 220 courses. This means they can pursue vocational interests alongside mandatory subjects such as Data Protection and Equality and Diversity.

The L&D team at Victim Support carefully listened to learners and managers – piloting courses with subject matter experts and practitioners before incorporating their feedback. This was so successful they’ve now incorporated feedback logs into their intranet, to continually collect information.

Feedback has been fantastic. Volunteers say the eLearning is clear, easy to follow and enhances their knowledge, providing them with a good introduction to Victim Support and their role prior to attending classroom training. One volunteer commented: “Written in simple and detailed language, activities helped me understand the information, animation helped make it more fun, videos were really relevant to the course titles.”

Even after accounting for first year development costs, the return on investment (ROI) was just over £36,000 in year one alone. And an unexpected bonus has been an increase in managers asking the L&D team to provide eLearning solutions to meet specific learning needs – proving the power of bespoke learning. This, combined with the ROI, has allowed a greater investment to train more in-house developers. This is ideal for an organisation that is so diverse and spread out, across hundreds of locations.

What was the secret to their success? The L&D team knew their biggest challenge was ensuring volunteers could engage with the technology – both at a practical and emotional level. Practically, they have around 6,000* volunteers with their own PCs and settings; emotionally, they were asking for acceptance of a new approach to learning.

Communication and stakeholder engagement was key to helping overcome these issues. The L&D team worked closely with volunteer managers, to help them understand the reasons for the changes – and this information was then cascaded down to volunteers. In partnership with the volunteering team, they also developed ‘how to’ and troubleshooting guides, to help ease the transition to technology. This means users can self-help and minimises the number of calls to the support desk.

Martin Baker, founder and CEO of the Charity Learning Consortium enthused: “This is a brilliant example of what charities achieve every day by thinking innovatively. It’s particularly rewarding to see that managers at Victim Support are now asking for more bespoke eLearning content. That really is testament to the way that Carol and the L&D team approached this project from the start. They should be enormously proud of their achievement.”

This inspirational project was an outstanding winner of the Charity Learning Award 2014 for the Best eLearning Programme. Judges were impressed by the research and planning that went into the project, as well as the quality of the end result, commenting on the “well designed programme based on research.”

Top tips for blended learning success from Carol Ridlington, Materials Developer at Victim Support:

• Invest time in design – ensuring the content is accessible and the information ‘sticky’ and relevant is crucial to motivating learning and meeting organisational objectives.
• Test modules on the audience that will use them. Users have a better sense of the correct pitch for their level.
• Even grown-ups like to ‘play games’ and the blended learning approach offers new and engaging ways to realise this potential.

Victim Support L&D: facts and figures

Victim Support is the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales. Set up 40 years ago, its grown to become the oldest and largest victims’ organisation in the world. In 2013 the charity helped more than a million victims of crime.

Around *6,000 volunteers help provide information and support to victims and witnesses of crime. More than 2,000 volunteers went through the new induction training programme in 2013/14 alone.

Volunteers receive training so they understand:
• The different types of crimes and ways that people are often affected.
• How the criminal justice system works.
• How to assess what kinds of help and support people need.
• Effective communication skills.
• Equal opportunities, diversity and confidentiality.
• Dealing with difficult and inappropriate behaviour.
• How to claim compensation after a violent crime.
• The special impact of crime on children.
• About personal safety.

There are more specialist training opportunities for volunteers who want to focus on supporting victims of sexual and domestic abuse, hate crime, restorative justice and for work with families of homicide victims or vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

*Volunteer numbers may vary, but was 6,000 in February 2015