An engaging eLearning activity at Cats Protection is helping the UKs leading cat charity save vital resources, empower staff and help meet its vision. Read on to find out how one short eLearning activity achieved all of that, and went on to win the Charity Learning Award 2015 for the Best eLearning module design.

With more than 9,000 Cats Protection staff and volunteers to support, eLearning has become an essential part of developing cat care skills. Hence the charity, which helps 194,000 cats and kittens per year, developed an interactive, online Cat Pen Activity.

The Cat Pen Activity is part of a larger online Cat Care Module, which has saved the charity vital resources of around £2,000 for every 60 learners. With 9,000 learners, the savings from the eLearning module will become increasingly significant.

Great feedback
Importantly, many staff and volunteers have enthusiastically embraced eLearning. An example of the type of response received from feedback for the Cat Pen Activity include:

“I have been fostering for 15 years now and enjoyed this little exercise. I would certainly use it if we had any new fosterers join us. It would just give them confidence they were getting it right.”

Whilst volunteer Nicola, from the St Albans Cat Protection branch, praised the Cat Care module’s interactive content:

“It’s absolutely brilliant the way you’ve done it and you never get a chance to get bored,” said Nicola.

Getting creative!
A small team of four created the activity, including a cat welfare trainer, a cat behaviorist, and a graphic designer. Laura Skilton, Flexible Learning Specialist from the Learning and Development team at Cats Protection, developed and led the collaborative project.

First they worked together on paper based prototypes to design activities and test interactions. Articulate Storyline 2 was then used to create the eLearning. Two rounds of testing were carried out, the first with a group of staff who engage directly with volunteers, and the second with a large group of staff and volunteers who all work with cats. Their feedback resulted in a number of changes and improvements.

Laura commented: “The interactive Cat Pen was a real team effort, as well as our behaviour expert, our training team and graphic designer we would not have produced such a useful tool without the feedback from our staff and volunteers during the development. It’s great to see an idea, which started as a rough sketch by a colleague, turn into something worthy of an award!”

Martin Baker, founder and CEO of the Charity Learning Consortium, praised their efforts: “This is a great example of what eLearning can achieve when it’s well thought out, and well designed and marketed. Congratulations to Laura and the team at Cats Protection.”

The Cat Care eLearning module, including the Cat Pen Activity, has been so successful at Cats Protection there are now plans to make it public, to support smaller cat welfare charities and catteries.

Another of Cats Protection’s online courses, Understanding Feline Origins (UFO) is available to the general public, which you can access here:

What was the eLearning need?

The Cat Pen Activity is part of a larger online Cat Care course. The full module – which used to be delivered purely face to face – educates staff and volunteers about infection and disease control in the rescue environment. Launched in July 2015, the short, engaging Cat Pen Activity specifically helps them put into practice what they have learnt in the full online module, and is designed to support their working practices.

Whilst waiting for a permanent home, the majority of the cats and kittens are looked after by the charity in pens. “Meeting the welfare needs of cats in this type of confined environment can be challenging,” said Laura. “So the Cat Pen Activity is a really vital part of our educational programme.”

The Cat Pen eLearning activity takes five to 10 minutes to complete and requires learners to place resources, such as a litter tray, toys or a hiding place, into a typical Cats Protection pen. During the activity the learners are supported with hints if they make a mistake. Information is also highlighted when a resource is put in the ideal location, explaining the theory behind the placement. This reinforces the importance of locating a cat’s vital resources, which can have an impact on its behaviour, stress and risk of disease.

The majority of Cats Protection staff and volunteers work with cat pens every day as part of their role.  Laura explains that this simple activity “reaffirms the learner’s understanding of the full module by directly applying their knowledge to everyday activities, helping them to meet the charity’s vision of a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs.”

Laura Skilton, Flexible Learning Specialist at Cats Protection, gives her top tips for creating eLearning:

  • Get users to test the activity early on. We waited until we had a near complete beta version but then needed to make some quite substantial changes. If we had sent them a proto-type/alpha version we would have avoided this.
  • I always test my developments with friends and family first, they give honest feedback and getting them to test very early prototypes helps you spot any user experience issues, it’s amazing how people will have a different experience to the developer.
  • You can develop an activity like this in Storyline in a number of ways: finding the best one early on will save you time. I originally had each interaction on a new slide, this meant when I changed the design I had to change it on every slide. The final version uses layers and states, which means changes are now much easier to make.
  • If you are a member of the Consortium and new to Storyline make use of the community and the Charity Learning Consortium ‘Ask the Expert’ sessions before you start development, as this advice can be invaluable.

About the Charity Learning Consortium

The Charity Learning Consortium enables cost effective, quality eLearning to be offered to more than 500,000 staff and volunteers across the third sector in the UK – engaging staff that more traditional learning & development may not reach.

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 connect with us on twitter @charitylearning. We also love to chat, so do please give us a call on 08451 707 702
About Cats Protection

Formed in 1927, Cats Protection has grown to become the UK’s leading feline welfare charity. In 2014 it helped over 205,000 cats and kittens through its network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 31 adoption centres.

As well as caring for and rehoming cats and kittens, it also: provides an array of cat care information via its publications, website and Helpline; promotes the benefits of neutering to prevent unwanted litters from being born and becoming the abandoned cats of tomorrow; and seeks to educate people of all ages about cats and their care. Connect with them @CatsProtection