Transitions in Social Care Training

Face to face delivery has always been the preferred delivery model in social care for very good reasons. To teach ‘care’ an interpersonal approach is required. Our impact assessment demonstrates that there is greater impact where the delivery is actively able to model ‘care’, to demonstrate inclusion and share experiences in a powerfully reflective way, person to person. Our impact work also demonstrates that there are sometimes unintended consequences to passionate delivery, where the learner is not only moved to feel confident and capable, but also inspired to make a difference.

Face to face delivery provides an aesthetic experience, one which utilizes sensory experiences, positive communication styles and human connection to improve impact. Care can also be very ‘practical’ in nature (beyond the obvious topics such as first aid and moving and positioning) and therefore, can benefit from face to face delivery. Teaching ‘care’ is also a reflective experience both for the learner and the facilitator which is evoked more naturally within a face to face setting.

In the past couple of months COVID-19 has caused a significant shift in the way learning is delivered. Social distancing has forced us to re-evaluate the delivery model, with some very surprising outcomes. The challenge for us has been how we maintain the organizations ability to impact practice, within an online platform. How could we affect the way people feel and inspire people to make a difference in their work through the medium of a computer?

How do we develop rapport with people and negotiate practical commitments for change? And how do we really listen to the way people feel and offer safe spaces where people can share their experiences?

Last week we were delighted to learn we were provided a grant by Ufi for digital transformation. This also provides access to a community of practice to re-imagine our practice. We called our project ‘Transitions’ but is best described as a rebirth. The pace of change has been rapid. COVID-19 has forced everyone to adopt remote delivery. Without COVID-19, it would have taken years to encourage people to adopt this type of learning and get to the point where we are now delivering the number of webinars we are doing in the space of a few weeks. It has forced people into the digital era almost overnight. In addition to this, the workforce we support are now having to adapt to new ways of working, new laws and challenges, balancing rights and responsibilities. Rapid recruitment is required, including the training of volunteers. Training is needed now, but the sector is currently not ready to embrace new ways of working. Some of the challenges we have experienced include:

  • Services reluctant to let people train in their home environment, worried that they will not engage fully
  • Individuals reluctant to use their own personal mobile devices
  • Lack of equipment including head sets
  • Lack of digital skills, e.g. ‘what is a mouse?’ 😊!!
  • Lack of commitment from employers to transition working practices
  • People accessing without headsets in shared offices
  • Confidentiality when training in learners’ own homes
  • Skilling up the trainers to wear two hats in their delivery, IT extraordinaire and outstanding trainer
  • Security issues with specific webinar platforms requiring our team to rapidly develop skills to use multiple platforms that meet different client requirements
  • Fear of the unknown, no experience in alternative delivery methods

Challenges with delivery have included:

  • Enabling learners to feel safe
  • Meeting a range of learning styles
  • Reasonable adjustments
  • Keeping the course interactive and managing contributions
  • Developing rapport with learners

However, despite these challenges great opportunities are emerging, such as:

  • Course Preparation – sending information ahead of a course enables learners to be more engaged
  • Social Learning – peer collaborations, often across services
  • ‘Flipped Learning’ – courses that were delivered over a full day are now split over two half days with a case study in between to reflect on
  • Collaboration – across the training and delivery teams reducing duplication and encouraging innovation
  • Greater accessibility and an ability to reach a much wider market
  • Leveraging resources – multimedia platforms leading to broader accessibility
  • Maximising constructivist approaches – optimizing problem based scenarios/ case studies by drawing from a broader audience
  • The ability to match trainers’ skills to client’s needs – previously there were geographical restrictions with face to face delivery

We would do well to remember the context of social care within this technological transformation. We recongise that much of our work relates to sensitive subjects, so in addition to onboarding around technology, we also need to consider confidentiality and emotional safety. But we also need to recognize that part of enabling people to feel safe and included, means supporting them with digital capabilities and the confidence to use new platforms. With a greater focus on visual teaching practices we need to ensure that we adopt positive images and deliver a broad range of cultural representations to make our material relevant and inclusive. We need to consider how to use technology to integrate activities which powerfully advocate human rights, deliver progressive strength-based ideologies and promote justice. We need to embrace those technologies that enhance the human experience, to share powerful stories that have a sustainable impact. We must be committed to the person’s voice and that our technologies are accessible to experts by experience and enhance, not hinder their contributions. We must exploit those technologies that capture and highlight the great contributions that individual care and support staff make to people’s lives. Finally, we must continue to maintain data protection, protect our learners from being exposed to negative online experiences and continually strive for safeguarding both for our learners and broader communities.

However, social care learning is not a single point of delivery. Knowledge management practices require a much more strategic approach to interface what we need to deliver in social care to get good outcomes.  Our organization has invested heavily in the development of techniques to improve impact of vocational learning in social care. Our focus has always been on outcomes of our work, not necessarily the evaluation forms, nor just learner outcomes, but instead the impact for our communities: the organisations and the individuals they support. The strategies we adopt to improve the reach of our work includes measures before (in organisational needs assessment), during (communicating expected impacts) and after (staging resources and providing tools). We have historically relied on technology to achieve the before and after but have been reluctant to move to blended approaches in delivery. However, Social Distancing has a sliver lining, the impetus to take these bold steps to integrate our impact work with equally as impactful online delivery through the medium of ‘Virtual Classroom’.

What is clear is that ‘care’ is still about people. So, we must remain focused on the people and how technology can be used to enhance facilitative relationships. I am excited about the use of new technologies, particularly how these may leverage our impact by utilising teaching strategies which encourage reflective practice and collaboration.

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