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Cats Protection: eLearning can be as effective as training

LAURA Shaw says that eLearning is a popular alternative to training at Cats Protection. The charity’s award-winning, blended Volunteer Champions Programme is also as effective as its face to face training.

As we get older and move through education and training, learners may begin to develop preferences for how they like to learn. But just because we have a preference for one way of learning, doesn’t mean that we can’t learn in other ways. And in terms of a learning experience, eLearning stands up very well to scrutiny. 

Numerous studies into the effectiveness of different learning methods, over several decades, show that in over 90% of cases, there is no significant difference between learning approaches. The research includes a high degree of analysis of eLearning. 

Reasons for this include the fact that eLearning: 

  • Can be designed to support how the brain works best when learning something new 
  • Provides an on-demand resource to support learning retention and application, so learning happens on-the-job 
  • Makes learning accessible to a wide variety of people, who might otherwise struggle to participate

Laura Shaw said:

“Any learning method is only successful when it’s been properly planned, well designed and well delivered. This applies equally to face-to-face training as it does to eLearning. 

“For the most part, most of our learning is available as either an eLearning course or a face-to-face session. For our many thousands of volunteers, the eLearning versions prove popular, even though the eLearning version doesn’t necessarily facilitate learners making personal connections with each other. 

“If you want to see behavioural change from eLearning, you need to include interaction with other learners and the tutors. If this is delivered well, you can see the same desired behavioural change with both formats. 

“Our greatest success to date has been with our Volunteer Champions Programme (VCP), that has been converted from a well-liked, four-day face-to-face workshop into a three-month virtual programme. This is made up of four, very interactive one to two-hour-long virtual classroom sessions, supported by a number of eLearning modules, alongside tutor support. 

“This required a lot of initial planning and we still continuously evaluate the programme and make tweaks as we go along. The addition of real-time, online sessions has really helped to bring learners together. As a result, we can see this new blended version is delivering the same outcomes as classroom training. And it is as popular. I can see us getting to a point where we deliver the course to more people virtually than face to face.

COVID update

This year, we’ve had to quickly move everything that was suitable into virtual classrooms – and there have been many silver linings to this change. We were lucky that we had the technology to move content online; the knowledge gained from designing and delivering VCP; and, importantly, the facilitators ready to engage in a new way of delivering. 

More than that, the facilitators have found fun and interesting ways to ensure that even though people are not in the same room they still feel connected, safe and inspired by the learning. We long for the day we can be back in a room with people but there will certainly be even more online delivery at Cats Protection from now on.

Laura’s eLearning top tip: Identify the real need first

When someone comes to you with a new learning request, sit down with them to make sure that you really understand what they’re looking to do, and then consider the best way to do this. If learning is the answer, we use Cathy Moore’s Will Training Help? flowchart to help us decide which format will deliver the smartest outcome. 

Cats Protection has previously won a Charity Learning Award for Best eLearning module design and has also won a bronze Training Journal award in the Public Sector/Not for Profit category for its Volunteer Champions Programme.

Cats Protection: eLearning can be as effective as training

This short case study is just one of ten included in a white paper from the Charity Learning Consortium: 10 reasons why charities should use eLearning. Whether you’re making the case to start your eLearning journey or are looking to enhance the investment you’ve already made, download the white paper to find out how eLearning delivers results.


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