“Welcome to the West Loddon Mallee Communication Coordinator Network!”….and with these few words our online Communication Coordinator resource begins.
We have been in the planning stage of this project for about 2 years, working with the DHS Disability Accommodation Services Managers to develop a format of learning that is flexible enough to meet the needs of our large geographical area, the limited RCS staffing and the staffing issues that exist across accommodation services in this area. Retention of staff is always going to be an issue in rural areas, as is the question of how do we support staff living and working 250km apart. We don’t yet know if we have answered these questions, but our first attempt has brought some very positive feedback from both participants and Managers.
The concept of Communication Coordinator training is not new and many great resources can be found through the CAN Network. In a geographically large area however, it is not the content that needs to be adjusted, but the way it is delivered. Re-writing of pre-existing training modules was unnecessary. We had to think about how to bring 15 staff from DHS houses together from 2 towns approximately 250km apart, keeping in mind the budgetary constraints of travel and potential overnight expenses and rostering within the houses. In this respect, the partnership with the Accommodation Services Managers was vital. Obviously we needed to reduce the face to face time, whilst not reducing the content value. Hence, the plan for an online leaning module was born.
Over the next few months, we worked on the existing Communication Coordinator training packages to see what could be completed through online learning (more specifically, self-paced reading and access to templates that would be used throughout the face to face training days). We finally decided upon an online introduction module and 3 days of face to face learning. The online module needed to be completed prior to the first face to face day of training. This consisted of much of the essential background readings and the beginnings of developing personal Books About Me.
As we moved through the 3 days of training, we slowly added a variety of resource links to the online site. Participants provided us with feedback along the way, around ease of access, usefulness of resources, etc.
Did it work?
The biggest challenge from the participant’s point of view was access. This wasn’t necessarily an issue with the site, but an issue with internet availability within the houses. For some staff, this was their first attempt at online learning and we had to help them set up Google/Gmail email addresses to enable them to access the site (this was a challenge for many, including me!). Participants liked the idea that they were not overwhelmed with paper, but they had a clear storage place for relevant documents.
From a trainer’s point of view, the issue was around the layout of the site and developing our own technical knowledge to manage the site (which is still a work in progress). Providing support via the online forums/discussions is going to take some time.
Will we continue?
Absolutely! As staff change both in accommodation services and within the RCS, the use of technology will become more the norm than the exception. As such, the site will continue to be developed as future groups of staff are trained, in the hope that each group’s contributions will value add to the group before. In the long term, we are hoping this will become a regional resource and a great opportunity for staff to problem solve and share communication successes and challenges. Until then……there’s more work to do!
– Sharon Champion, West Loddon Mallee RCS