This blog post is by Articulate Community Manager Jeanette Brooks.
If you’re like me, anytime you take your kids to a camp or recreation program, the first thing on your mind is to be 110% sure that the staff are well trained and care about your kids’ safety. That’s exactly what’s on Stephen Dauchert’s mind, too — and it’s why his team uses Articulate products to build e-learning courses for roughly 500 youth and community organizations throughout the U.S.
Stephen is the Manager of Distance Learning at The Redwoods Group, an insurance and risk management provider to YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, and other nonprofit resident camps across the U.S. The company currently insures about half of the YMCAs in the nation.
“At the top of our business model is a strong commitment to serve others,” Stephen explains. “And e-learning is a big part of that. For us, serving begins with analyzing and sharing data that will help our customers prevent harm. It’s not just about lowering claims; it’s about ensuring safety and saving lives. By giving customers the right knowledge, information, and training, we’re giving them the first line of defense in preventing harm and tragedy. We’re helping them build better, stronger, safer youth programs.”
Here’s what Stephen shared with us in a recent chat about how his organization is using e-learning:
Stephen, tell us a little about The Redwoods Group’s e-learning initiatives.
In 2009, we launched The Redwoods Institute — it’s an online educational resource available to customers of The Redwoods Group at no additional cost. Since our social mission revolves around protecting children, we focus on a gamut of topics, from the basics like bloodborne pathogens and safe lifting techniques, to the crucial like prevention of child sexual abuse and drowning. Since launch, we’ve expanded to 16 courses, with two more on the way before the end of 2011.
Some of our newer topics are:
You used to do a lot of in-person training for your customers. What prompted you to transition to e-learning?
We were training more than 30,000 employees per year through live presentations. The live instructor-led environment can be great in some ways — but there were definite shortcomings. All instructors have their own style and approach, so the experience really wasn’t consistent for all our customers. Also, the expense of cross-country travel for small training sessions became very prohibitive. E-learning gave us a sustainable way to deliver a consistent, effective message. Additionally, the intimacy of solo learning versus group learning was a consideration. It’s easy to get distracted in group settings. So we wanted to align our learning content with the best learning environments – key fundamentals in e-learning dynamic and application of learning in team or group dynamic.
Since launching The Redwoods Institute, our learning audience has more than tripled! We now serve about 100,000 learners per year. We reach many more people now, because customers complete the training at their own convenience. Before, scheduling employees to attend a classroom event was really tricky, because someone always needed to be guarding the pool or supervising children. Now, they learn whenever their schedules allow.
How have your customers liked the new way of learning?
We’ve found that HR directors love our online platform. When training is taken care of, it gives them more time to do what’s important: focus on their employees and their mission. They no longer have to spend their time scheduling training sessions, researching and preparing course content, hiring trainers … they just don’t have to worry about any of that. This has freed them up to spend more time with employees.
And when they do need to hold live trainings or meetings to cover location-specific content, employees come ready with preparatory knowledge because they’re familiar with the online material. They can use their face-to-face time to focus on topics unique to their own organization.
Why’d you choose Articulate software for your rapid e-learning tool set?
We use Articulate for two reasons: Articulate’s focus on community and the ease-of-use of the software.
When we choose partners for our company, the first thing we look for is social responsibility. Articulate has a social conscience and makes significant contributions to LINGOs, an organization that helps nonprofits to train their employees and increase the impact of humanitarian programs. That really fits with our company’s philosophies.
We also share Articulate’s belief in the power of community. In fact, we borrowed our name from the majestic redwoods of California — trees which don’t have individual root systems but instead are all connected to one root system. In a similar way, we believe we’re part of one root system in the community. Articulate places that same strong focus on community, too. The resources at E-Learning Heroes, the Rapid E-Learning Blog, and the Word of Mouth blog are free, active, and dynamic. In fact, I’ve posted several questions to the Articulate community and quickly received helpful answers. In a couple situations, community members even offered to take a look at my project and provide further suggestions and feedback.
Besides looking at the philosophy of the company, we also needed to make sure the software we chose would be compatible with our employees, our technology, and our needs. We downloaded a free trial of Articulate Studio and produced a sample prototype course in no time!
What features of the software do you use the most?
Each course has at least one Engage interaction and one Quizmaker quiz; however, most trainings have several of each. We often put practice quizzes throughout a course as knowledge-checks, and then a final quiz at the end to verify mastery and application.
Engage interactions are great for enabling learners to interact with the content and avoiding the “click-and-read trance.” Engage is a big differentiator when it comes to going beyond typical PowerPoint-style presentations.
What other unique things are you doing with your e-learning initiatives?
We’re using our Articulate software for more than just online trainings. Our CEO often speaks on social responsibility and social enterprise. We filmed a few of his speeches, and since the videos were longer than an hour, they were too long to post on YouTube and too large to stream on our site. Articulate Presenter was a wonderful solution because we created an outline menu where we broke up the hour-long video into shorter segments and used the Presenter player as a “wrapper.” Here’s an example of that.
Another thing we’re doing is viewing our courses through the lens of ROM (Return on Mission). We know ROI (Return on Investment) is important, and we definitely see that in the decreased insurance claims. But by looking at ROM, we help ensure our efforts support and fulfill the mission of our organization: to protect and improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.
Stephen, thanks so much for sharing your story! We’re honored you chose Articulate to come alongside The Redwoods Group’s efforts in helping youth organizations and communities to build safe, nurturing environments for kids. Congrats on your e-learning success!