The evolution of online learning at ENABLE Scotland
Learning and development at ENABLE Scotland quickly transformed from traditional, face-to-face training to a successful, multimedia, blended approach centred around the LMS provided by the Charity Learning Consortium. Alistair Strang, L&D Business Partner, explains how he managed such a rapid transformation, and the impact that it has had.
Member fact file
ENABLE Scotland has been a member of the Charity Learning Consortium since 2015 and uses the LMS and eLearning that we provide. The charity also has an enhanced data package, providing additional eLearning reporting.
Learning and development (L&D) at ENABLE Scotland was mainly traditional, face-to-face training until the Covid pandemic hit. The organisation did have eLearning and a learning management system (LMS) from the Charity Learning Consortium, but it wasn’t being used to its full potential.
L&D was also very devolved. Trainers and subject matter experts within the organisation were being used to good effect at a local level. But different regions were collating different data using different systems – if they were collecting data at all.
“At times, it was a bit of a free-for-all, and there was no real central overview of what was happening in various parts of the country,” explains Alistair Strang, L&D Business Partner.
Most used eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium
- Health and safety
- Manual handling
- Safeguarding for adults and children
- GDPR/data protection
- Fire safety
- Risk assessment
- Medication and first aid
Around 1,700 personal assistants work on the front line for ENABLE Scotland, over a huge geographical area – based anywhere from the Orkneys in the far north to Largs in the South West. When the pandemic hit and the country entered lockdown, all face-to-face training at the organisation was cancelled. The L&D team had to find a way to provide induction, support and ongoing training. That included delivering practical topics like first aid and the Management of Actual or Potential Physical Aggression (MAPA).
“With something like MAPA, you need to show the physical disengagement, how to get out of a situation if somebody grabs you, how to regain control of a situation,” explains Alistair. “How could that be done online?”
The learning department basically had to come up with a solution and fast!
The answer started with Alistair and his colleague Alan Davidson, L&D Administrator, playing around with software and learning materials.
Alistair discovered purely by accident that you can record audio over a PowerPoint. He then spent a couple of weeks narrating training programmes to create audio that aligned with existing PowerPoint presentations. The L&D team then started to think more creatively, embedding video clips from YouTube to make courses more interesting. These courses were then uploaded to the LMS provided by the Charity Learning Consortium, organised in topic folders so that materials could be easily found. This was a reasonably quick solution to getting essential information to staff in lockdown. But what about the vital element of practice?
“We basically hit the next stumbling block,” says Alistair. “We could get the theory right, but how were we going to get the practicals assessed?”
The solution was to become filmmakers. They created a suite of videos in-house to demonstrate practical subjects, like MAPA, to match the theoretical content. People’s skills were then assessed online, via Teams or Zoom.
With topics like first aid, although theory could be delivered online, skills had to be assessed in person to meet requirements. Returning to the classroom, numbers were capped at one trainer to six trainees, with everyone completing theory online first, taking a natural flow test (NFT) and wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).
To manage this, the online booking system and reporting within the LMS came into its own. This functionality meant that the L&D team could ensure that everyone had completed the theory before they participated in practical sessions. This was also a major shift from the previously ‘local’, devolved approach to training. Having a central overview made keeping track of vital skills like first aid much easier.
“It took a lot of recording and frantic programming, fuelled by coffee and bacon sandwiches, but all the core courses that could be delivered online went live in about two weeks!” explains Alistair.
This new, multifaceted approach proved instantly popular, and as online programmes started to roll out requests to create specific courses rolled in. Alistair and his team were able to create bespoke solutions fast, with staff accessing courses and materials via the LMS – providing valuable, centralised management and data.
Risk assessment reimagined
- Previously a classroom course
- Theory now delivered online, with a test at the end
- Participants then download and complete a risk assessment and submit it to the L&D department
- L&D discuss the risk assessment with participants over Zoom
This approach has been so successful that the organisation isn’t returning to classroom delivery for this topic.
The next stage in the evolution of new, digitally-led learning at ENABLE, was to use the pathways feature of the LMS. This was helpful in creating a learning journey for specific people, such as line managers.
It was also important for learning to be cascaded down through the organisation, whenever possible. For example, service managers showed team leaders how to do NFTs – in turn, leaders practised doing NFTs with their staff. Again, the reporting functionality in the LMS was really useful for keeping track of who had completed Covid training.
Creating quizzes, tests and assessments that are self-marking has also been a revelation, helping to make L&D more sustainable.
“During the pandemic, we started exploring all these aspects to the LMS that we hadn’t done before, to create an approach that has just worked really well for us,” says Alistair.
The result was an uninterrupted, blended learning program, with the LMS front and centre.
“The LMS became our focal point with all our L&D centred around it. It’s adaptable enough that we could just come up with a lot of different solutions.”
Rapidly creating bespoke courses and resources – in topics like finance, legislation and modern slavery – has also been key to success.
Feedback has been really positive, from staff as well as managers.
Moving to digitally-led learning has had a huge impact:
- Learning attendance has increased
- It’s less disruptive than classroom-only – for trainers as well as staff
- People can participate wherever they’re based
- It’s incredibly cost effective, with significant savings
- Using the LMS has provided accurate data, to give an overview of L&D at ENABLE Scotland
- It’s helped put responsibility for learning onto staff
- After years of talking about it, it’s shown that blended learning can work as well as face-to-face training
Variety: In hindsight, and in an ideal world, it would have been nice to have recruited more people to narrate voice overs, to provide more variety.
IT: Not everyone is IT literate, even now, so we’re planning on doing more IT training upfront.
Hardware: Initially we relied on mobile phones, but we’ve since been providing more laptops for a better learner experience.
Alistair Strang is the L&D Business Partner at ENABLE Scotland.
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