Charities have unique training needs: in addition to providing learning opportunities for employees, many need to ensure that volunteers are confident and competent in their roles (but with limited time and resources to get them up to speed). Add to that the huge range of aims, service users and organisation sizes that make up the third sector, and it’s plain to see that learning and development for charities isn’t a simple matter!
Maybe your training for staff and volunteers is all face-to-face, or perhaps you’re already using some off-the-shelf elearning courses that cover basic topics (like data protection, customer service or safeguarding). But have you considered creating your own bespoke training that fits the needs of your charity perfectly? It may sound intimidating, but building elearning courses is easier than you think – if you keep a few key tips in mind.
Identify the gaps
If you’re already providing classroom or on-the-job training sessions, you likely have a fairly clear grasp on where to begin when thinking about building an elearning programme. But regardless, it’s always a good idea to think critically about what your people (whether volunteers or paid employees) need – and to anchor that in what they must be able to do in order for the charity to meet its aims.
You’ll also need to consider the abilities and skills of everyone who needs training, and how you can support them to access it. Charities often have a wide range of learners; some may be staff members who use a range of software daily, and others may be volunteers who have little experience with technology.
Find the right tool
Let’s face it, most charities are short on two things: time and money. So when it comes to choosing a method for building your online courses, you need one that’s easy to use (without a steep learning curve) and won’t break the bank. A web-based elearning authoring tool is probably your best bet; these can be used online in your browser, without the need to install additional software. You may also need an accompanying Learning Management System (LMS) to enrol learners onto courses and view their progress.
Nimble offers an integrated solution: Nimble Author, a super-simple online course authoring tool, and Nimble LMS, a straightforward way to manage courses, enrolments and results. Best of all, you’ll have the friendly, skilled support of a named Customer Success Manager to help you get the most from your investment.
How are you going to deliver tailored online training experiences in a way that will reach your volunteers, field-based employees and office-based staff? Many of your learners will need to access elearning using a mobile device (whether their own smartphone or a tablet). Make sure that any courses you create will look great and function smoothly on any size screen.
Find out how Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL) used Nimble to build short, practical courses for their employees that could be used on the job via a mobile device, during clothing bank collection – and the impact their elearning programme has had on the organisation.
Break it down
It can be easy to get carried away when you’re writing an elearning course, and before you know it you’ve created an hours-long monster. But by planning your content carefully, you can split it into shorter courses that will have a greater impact. For example, if you’ve got a lot of important information to convey to a new starter, don’t fall into the trap of writing an epic titled ‘Induction’. Break it down into smaller chunks: how about a ‘Meet the Team’ course, ‘Key Policies’, ‘Donation Processes’ and so on?
Social enterprise EMBERS Canada followed this process to build a life-changing series of elearning courses for their employees, called Money Matters; see how they are empowering people to take charge of their finances and face up to their beliefs about money.
Use images and video wisely
With a bit of thought, images can add serious value to your elearning courses, making them engaging, relevant and improving their effectiveness. It’s important to choose images that enhance the learning experience, and generally you’ll only want to add a single, impactful image to a page. Sometimes, a picture is the obvious choice to get information across: if you’re building a course about visual merchandising in a charity shop, the addition of a few excellent examples will make all the difference!
Including video in your online training can really help bring the learning to life. You may well already have access to video materials that you can use to introduce a topic, or highlight an issue. These can be particularly useful in helping new staff or volunteers to understand the ‘why’ behind the charity; video has a special kind of emotional impact that brings your values into focus. Equally, it can also be a great way to teach learners how to follow a process, or use a system (find out how Project Plan Services use embedded video in their elearning courses to explain software basics).
Get the message out
Build it, and they will come… right? Maybe not so much, when we’re talking about training opportunities. It feels like creating the training is the hard part, but marketing your courses effectively is just as important. If you can create a buzz around a new learning opportunity and make its value clear to your teams, uptake will be a lot higher. Think about making a marketing campaign for a new course: how can you get the message out? Could you send a series of emails to staff, or use internal social media? Or, if your target audience is volunteers, how can you spread the word on the ground?
Read our in-depth article about how to promote elearning to your employees if you’d like to find out more.
As with any training opportunity, elearning is only as good as the impact it has – and you’ll only be able to measure that if you know who’s accessed it. Make sure your LMS has the capability to report on completion data and assessment scores in just a few clicks. With Nimble LMS, you can also dig deeper to view individual learners’ responses and behaviour within a course, which provides valuable insights about their potential future training needs.
Beyond just the data from your LMS, it’s important to think back to that key question you considered when planning your elearning: what do you need employees and volunteers to be able to do? Uncovering the answer will inform how you choose which data to look at when you’re measuring the true impact of your training programme.
Why not give it a try?
Creating online training that fits the needs of your charity perfectly takes a bit of planning, but it doesn’t need to be difficult or costly. If you’re interested in exploring an authoring tool and LMS from a company that values building supportive relationships with charities,chat with one of our friendly sales team here at Nimble.
We also offer a 15% discount on annual licences for registered charities. What are you waiting for?