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Case Study: British Orienteering

British Orienteering were finalists in the 2022 Nimble Awards ‘Course of the Year’ category with their course Introduction to Updating Forest Maps.

An exciting outdoor adventure sport that mixes the skill of map reading and the physical challenge of completing a route, orienteering can be enjoyed by all ages and at all levels of fitness.

Orienteering uses special highly-detailed maps to show checkpoints that must be visited to complete a course. The courses can be anywhere – busy city streets, rural hillsides, forest areas, and a huge variety of other places in between – and range in length from under two kilometres to over 10 km. When athletes compete in events, the aim is to visit all the checkpoints in the quickest time.

British Orienteering

British Orienteering are the national governing body for orienteering in the United Kingdom, overseeing around 120 clubs throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their work is supported by a huge number of dedicated volunteers, who all work together to raise the profile of orienteering, welcome newcomers to the sport, and nurture talent to build a successful competitive GB Team.

The great thing about orienteering is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to give it a go – some clothes which are suitable for outdoor activity (including sensible footwear) is all you need to have ready to enjoy orienteering. There is one vital tool though: the special maps that show the checkpoints for the course and contain lots of accurate details to allow people to choose their best route through an area. And these maps need to be created by people with the necessary skills; these people are British Orienteering’s Mappers.

To allow the sport to thrive and grow, Mappers are an essential part of the ecosystem, creating the course maps for orienteers to use. British Orienteering had a look at their numbers and saw they only had about 100 Mappers working across their network, so they were keen to grow that number.

The Challenge

British Orienteering had already been offering training for individuals who are interested in mapping. This was delivered in face-to-face training sessions, which required a big investment of time to organise and deliver – fine if you’re getting large numbers attending, but can feel disappointing when you don’t have a full house.

With the aim of growing their number of Mappers, it felt like continuing face-to-face training sessions wasn’t going to be able to reach the greater numbers of people they needed.

British Orienteering were also keen to diversify those who were becoming Mappers, particularly looking to encourage younger people to take up mapping, and recognising the need to appeal to a wider diversity of people if the sport is going to continue to grow into the future.

It felt like elearning would be great for reaching a larger, younger audience. But was it the right fit? These sessions are really in-depth, where a lot of knowledge is shared and practical skills demonstrated. There were some concerns that this wouldn’t translate into elearning – would the training work in this format?

The elearning course Introduction to Updating Forest Maps was to be designed for an orienteer with interest in mapping but no experience. These people are vital to have across the network to maintain and grow the orienteering courses available.

The Results

The team got to work creating the course.

In the early stages of development, it was apparent that there was a huge amount of information to impart. Breaking it down into topics with a logical flow took time, but getting the basics right would be valuable later. It was soon clear that standardising the material would have huge benefits – whilst a few stories and personal touches from individual trainers can really make a face-to-face course feel special, actually having the key structure and learning points firmed-up and in a logical sequence was really helpful.

Like all Nimble customers, British Orienteering had a named Customer Success Manager (CSM) with them every step of the way to make sure they were able to create the elearning they needed. Having that personalised support is so valuable to organisations who haven’t had much experience with creating elearning, and Nimble are proud to say that excellent customer service is at the heart of all that we do. For this project, CSM Lesley was a great support, sharing her experience with using Nimble to make sure the elearning course was tip-top.

Once the elearning was rolled out, course feedback was very positive. Experienced Mappers took the course and were really impressed with what had been achieved.

“The beauty of elearning is that we can keep tweaking it, and that’s what we really like about the platform” – Howard Blackman, British Orienteering.

Learners access the materials on demand, and at a time and place of their choosing, not relying on scheduling in events with experienced Mappers – this easily reaches a much larger group of interested people for British Orienteering.

“It enables a more volunteer-friendly way into the art of mapping. Learners can grasp the necessities without the hours of ‘field work’ before starting on the map for real, and can pick up the course when they have the time to do so, which makes becoming a ‘mapper’ appealing to many more people across my club than it would do ordinarily” – Kay Hawke, British Orienteering

Participants are advised to find a more experienced Mapper to act as a mentor when they give mapping a go for themselves, and this ensures that new Mappers have all the practical skills they need and feel confident to give it a try.

Now that one course has been successfully made and launched to positive feedback, it’s been an easier process to create more elearning building on those successes.

British Orienteering have seen the value in training using Nimble, and hope to keep developing two courses a year for the next five years.

The judges of the 2022 Nimble Awards were impressed, commenting:
“Logical structure which flows nicely. Material is well-pitched and engaging for the audience. Each topic has a summary with signposting used throughout. Nice range of interactions and used effectively. Great use of video to explain map features. Inspired use of interactive graphics to show surveying stages. Questions used effectively as learning tools within the course with final assessment linked to content.”

Thanks to Howard Blackman from British Orienteering for sharing your story with us.

To find out more about British Orienteering visit their website britishorienteering.org.uk