Wednesday, 17 August 2022
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Wednesday, 17 August 2022

The launching of eLearning at Common Thread Group

When Susan Strain joined Common Thread Group in January 2020, the organisation was using a range of online videos that she describes as unexciting, delivered on a clunky platform that didn’t encourage self-reliance.

As a new Learning & Talent Development Manager at the organisation, she was keen to make her mark. She found that the learning management system (LMS) and eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium offered greater opportunities to engage learners while also saving money. Susan also had a vision for a more blended, sustainable approach to L&D and wanted to transform induction, and knew that a new system could help with all of that. 

The new LMS, launched in July 2020, has been integral to a fresh approach to L&D. Susan says she was also incredibly fortunate to have the support of fellow senior managers. Read on to find out how she achieved buy-in from across the organisation. 

Before launch

Preparation before launch was key to the new LMS being widely adopted.

Susan took several key steps:

  • Engaging all stakeholders – using Zoom calls in the pandemic, when people couldn’t meet face to face
  • Carrying out user testing with a small group of five people with a mix of different job roles, including front-line workers, managers and IT staff. Running over six weeks, this user-testing she says was key to adoption
  • Listening to all feedback and adapting things where possible
  • Purchasing extra online training and resources to meet the specific needs of the organisation
  • Capturing all data and certificates from the old system

Onboarding

Although there was an induction programme in place, this began when people started work at Common Thread. Susan was keen to ‘catch’ people in that gap between being hired and starting in their new roles. 

“People are really keen at this point and generally can’t wait to start. And it’s a really good way to engage people with eLearning and learning and development right from the beginning,” she says. 

She now uses the LMS and eLearning, alongside other resources, for a new onboarding programme that begins before day one. This has proved popular, as it gives people a head start. 

Self-service

Part of Susan’s vision for L&D at Common Thread is to encourage a sustainable approach, where staff take responsibility for their own learning. Legal requirements mean that mandatory training has to be undertaken for compliance. Beyond that, everyone is encouraged to discuss with their managers what training would best meet their needs. This conversation is key to avoiding a ‘scattergun’ approach. 

Staff then book themselves onto any course they want to, whether eLearning, virtual or face-to-face. This approach is part of a cultural shift towards self-service across the entire organisation. It’s key to being able to sustain L&D, putting both learners and managers in the driving seat and avoiding dependence on a training department to organise everything. 

“The LMS really lends itself to this self-service approach, not just for staff but for their managers as well, with useful, monthly reports,” explains Susan. 

In an ideal world, all training would happen within working hours. If other commitments mean that staff end up completing eLearning at home, outside of their work, then they are also paid for their time. 

One-stop shop

To support self-reliance, Susan has curated a multi-media resource hub, which is clearly visible on the home page of the LMS. This includes details of all supporting resources that are available, such as:

  • Links to YouTube videos and TedTalks
  • Useful resources, like personal development plans, articles, PDFs and templates
  • Other curated resources, from organisations like the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Social Services Council 
  • Resources created in-house, such as a video overview of Common Thread Group

She’s also using the LMS to support training, with clear signposting to details of all courses and workshops, whether virtual or face to face. Mandatory training is on offer alongside a wide range of other self-selecting workshops and resources. Staff use the face-to-face booking tool, that comes as part of the LMS, to put their names down for training. 

“Staff now recognise the LMS as the place to go, not just to book onto a training course but to find helpful resources in the flow of work,” says Susan.

Blending learning

Launching a new LMS and eLearning, alongside new style onboarding, has been the foundation of a new approach to blended learning. For example, new starters now complete a two-hour eLearning course in first aid and then apply what they’ve learnt in a practical session when they start work. 

Evaluation

Evaluating the impact of L&D is a work in progress, every training course is reviewed at the end. With the aim of gaining a ‘bigger picture’, questions about learning and development have now been added to a whole staff survey. 

“Everyone is very positive about the new system. In particular, people who have been at Common Thread for a while really like it,” says Susan. “It’s so easy to use and they really love everything being all in one place.”

Susan Strain is the Learning & Talent Development Manager at Common Thread Group. The Scotland-based organisation has around 200 staff, and runs two schools and 18 homes for young people, with locations from Dumfries and Galloway to the Highlands, with a head office in Lockerbie. Common Thread Group joined the Charity Learning Consortium in 2020 and uses both the learning management system and eLearning suite provided by the Consortium.

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