Online learning needs

When you move to online training, you also need to know other things about your learners:

  • how confident and familiar they are working online
  • what technologies and online tools they are already familiar with (e.g. video conferences, webinars, social media)
  • how easy it is for them to get internet access
  • what devices they are using to get online (e.g. phone, tablet or computer)
  • whether they need any extra resources to make online training accessible to them, for example screen-readers or writing tools.

Activity: Learning to train online

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the video where Charlotte Chishava, who works as an international development consultant, talks about what happened when they moved their training online as a result of Covid-19.

Download this video clip.Video player: nc4868_tyto_2021_vid002_1920x1080.mp4
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So, what I'm going to share with you is an experience that we as a programme are going through, as a way to adapt the way that we do capacity development for our volunteers during this COVID era. We were one of the organisations that used to do face-to-face trainings, because we totally believed that children interaction plays a key role in building skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are essential in implementing a programme. But, unfortunately, due to COVID, we couldn't meet, so we had to adapt the way that we interact with our volunteers fast.

One of the things that we ended up settling for, as a programme, is the use of WhatsApp. Why the use of WhatsApp is because we thought every volunteer had a phone, every volunteer could type, and every volunteer could buy, you know, bundles. They are really cheap, and it would enable them to then just give an interaction within the platforms.

But I must say things are not always as we expect them to be. Yes, people had phones. Yes, they had experience in typing, but the experience we later learned during our trainings is that we would, for example, ask our volunteers to use emojis just to show their presence in a workshop. For some, with big phones, it was easy. They would quickly look for a smiley and then press on it. And voila -- it comes.

But for some with small phones that need extra buttons they had to work extra hard to get to that image, and sometimes it would take a lot of time than anticipated, meaning by the time they get to see the image and send it, we would be doing question number one, question number two. So that was the biggest problem that we noticed.

The second thing that we noticed is that not everyone was quick in typing and reading. So, in a group WhatsApp platform where you have about 40 participants, everyone is busy typing an answer in response to what the facilitators asked. One wants to read and check whether what they want to write has not already been mentioned. One wants to also learn what others are saying. At the same time, they also want to concentrate with putting their response to the question. By the time they actually press Enter, what will happen is we are on question number 3. So, we realised that pace, typing skills, general knowledge, and appreciation of WhatsApp functions were crucial, and were things that we had taken for granted, mainly because we just thought everyone works with WhatsApp.

How we have managed to work around this problem is that we have introduced another module where we still use WhatsApp platforms, but what we now do is we send information in advance to different groups, so they're working groups of about five volunteers at a time. They read through the materials. They discuss in their free time before the actual training date.

When they come for the actual training date, what they then do is they are simply giving feedback to what they've discussed as a group. The good part about this is that it enables different groups to share experience that they actually do within their school hubs It enables participants to ask each other questions, comments, clarifications on why they've done things in a certain way. And it enables, for example, the facilitator to give the leading role to the participants, because they then determine what is crucial to understand within the training itself, and what new ideas they are then -- what they're picking, unlike our old model, where everything used to be sent out to the group, then the facilitator -- then they would get to summarise it for everyone for them to be on the same level.

End transcript
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By reflecting on their new knowledge about the volunteers’ online learning needs, Charlotte and her team were able to redesign the course so that it worked much better.

Ensuring online training is accessible to people with disabilities and those with additional needs is particularly important. Online training has the potential to be much more accessible than face-to-face training, because participants do not need to travel to training venues and with asynchronous training they can study at their own pace and at a time that suits their needs.

Understanding your learners’ characteristics

Barriers to online learning