Effective online induction at The Action Group

Louise Brunton and Gareth Timms from The Action Group explain how simple evaluation methods helped them refine a new online induction, to ensure its success 

Member fact file: The Action Group joined the Charity Learning Consortium in 2019 and uses both the learning management system and eLearning that we provide.

The business need

The Action Group helps more than 2,200 children and adults, who have support needs and learning disabilities, across East Central Scotland. Working with vulnerable people makes it’s essential for new staff and/or volunteers to understand the ethos and values of the organisation, as well as what is expected of them. This is vital, so that they can carry out their role in a way that is supportive, empowering and, above all, safe. 

Historically The Action Group ran their inductions as in-person workshops. Each year the learning and development (L&D) team would review the content to ensure that it was relevant and adding value for participants. But they knew from feedback surveys that classroom training was a hit. The quality team’s auditing of behaviours in practice also proved that the training was successful. 

When Covid hit, it put an abrupt end to classroom training. The Learning and Development Team, led by Learning and Development Manager Louise Brunton, had to ensure that they could keep up with training new starters at The Action Group in such a challenging environment.

The learning solution

Their first attempt at a new style of induction was a quick blend. They had to act fast in order to ensure that the people the charity supports continued to receive the high quality service they deserved. As speed was an issue, they decided against starting from scratch. Instead, they split existing content into two, one-day virtual classroom sessions with some key eLearning in between.

Other mandatory training from the suite of eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium – such as Health & Safety and Lone Worker Safety – were invaluable. Elements were added to these to ensure they fitted the social care context that The Action Group operates in. Other traditionally classroom courses, such as medication, were converted to eLearning using Articulate 360 and then uploaded to the LMS. 

The challenges

1. Length of training

As induction is mandatory in order to complete probation, attendance wasn’t a concern. Learner satisfaction, though, was a priority and after the first programme, they knew something wasn’t working. 

“It just didn’t feel right,” Louise reflects on the approach. “The days in virtual training were too long for the trainers, let alone the participants.” 

 The learner data supported this gut feeling. Some participants weren’t fully engaging during the live sessions and were silent and distracted. The number of people completing the post-training questionnaire had also plummeted. After classroom sessions, the L&D team were used to receiving feedback from almost every single participant. With this new incarnation of the programme, they only received a handful. 

This lack of feedback provided excellent learner data in itself, as it demonstrated a shift in mindset. The staff and volunteers experiencing the training just didn’t feel strongly enough about it – or the organisation – to give their views. 

2. Low eLearning completions

Louise and Gareth also noticed that almost half of the participants were not completing the eLearning modules between the two virtual sessions. The only saving grace here was that the quality team were still reporting acceptable levels of practice – so the key messages were still getting through.

Monitoring and review

Louise and Gareth reviewed their position based on the data they had: 

  • Trainer feedback that the virtual sessions were too long
  • Lack of learner participation
  • Lack of learner feedback
  • Lack of eLearning completions
  • No impact on quality thus far

They knew that their content was right, but there was something very wrong with their delivery method.


1. Greater flexibility to complete eLearning

Speaking to learners, they dug deeper into the issues surrounding completing the eLearning. With staffing levels stretched, new starters were having to get more involved, more quickly in day-to-day tasks. Their managers also had less time to give as they were at capacity themselves, covering other roles. People wanted to complete the eLearning, and saw the value of it, they just didn’t have the time. So Louise and Gareth lengthened the time between the virtual sessions from two weeks to four. Checking completion data a few months later confirmed this had resolved this particular issue. 

2. Breaking online sessions into chunks

Next, Louise and Gareth addressed the length of the virtual sessions. The virtual classroom was proving popular, as it offered greater flexibility for participants to organise training around their shifts. However, the duration of each session was exhausting for both the trainers and the participants. Louise and Gareth reviewed this and split each one day session into two parts. Feedback from trainers and learners showed that this was more manageable and enjoyable. The learners were more ‘present’ during each of the sessions and the number of participants completing the feedback questionnaire has started to increase.

The L&D team has now identified an extra metric to help assess the success of virtual induction. A change in terminology means that all staff should refer to ‘people being supported’ by the charity, rather than calling them clients, customers or service users. Whilst people adjust to this, trainers will be on the lookout for rogue terms that creep in. If that happens too often, they may need to revise training to make terminology more memorable. The introduction of Discussion forums on the LMS helped with this and allowed trainers to identify when language was slipping. 

Louise and Gareth have used data to great effect, to design and redesign their induction training in an iterative way to meet the needs of the organisation. Their partnership with the quality team has given them confidence that the changes they’ve made will continue to instil the desired attitudes and behaviours in their people. 

About Louise and Gareth

Louise Brunton is the Learning and Development Manager, and Gareth Timms the Learning and Development Officer, at The Action Group. They won the Charity Learning Award 2022 for Outstanding Dedication. Find out more about the Charity Learning Award winners on our website here.

About Louise and Gareth

Louise Brunton is the Learning and Development Manager, and Gareth Timms the Learning and Development Officer, at The Action Group. They won the Charity Learning Award 2022 for Outstanding Dedication. Find out more about the Charity Learning Award winners on our website here.

This article was written by Harri Savage, Online Learning Specialist at ELK Online. Harri has spent more than a decade working with organisations to help them craft their learning stories. From designing creative learning solutions, to kick-starting engagement in existing programmes, she evolves learning from a one-time hit to a long-lasting development culture.

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