The Experiences of Staff
Across Victoria businesses and services are becoming Communication Accessible. Staff training is an important part of this process and utilising technology to provide training to remote and rural staff is becoming more common place. This blog will explore staff perceptions and experiences completing an eLearning Module in place of traditional face to face communication training to increase communication accessibility.
As this project is ongoing, evaluation of staff learning will be assessed during a Communication Access Assessment to be completed by the Communication and Inclusion Resources Centre (CIRC).
In 2015, the East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSS) approached the Gippsland Regional Communication service (GRSC) to be assessed for the Communication Accessible Symbol®. As part of this commitment, the shire implemented visual communication aids, including site specific communication boards and signage, plain English brochures, forms, information leaflets and communication training for all service centre staff.
The East Gippsland Shire covers a vast area of 21,000 km2, with 6 council service centres and one mobile facility. A traditional face to face staff training model was not efficient due to the remote locations of many centres along with simultaneous time release with most service staff being a challenge. An innovative solution was the development of an eLearning Module by the Gippsland Regional Communication Service. Face to face training was completed collectively with managers of each of the sites, and all other staff individually completed the eLearning Module.
Stills from an eLearning module. Frank making an enquiry at the council
The eLearning Module
The eLearning Module consisted of an unlisted website built with Google Sites and used Google software. The presentation of the information was intended to be succinct and interesting. Information was mostly presented in short, purpose-made YouTube video presentations of a speech pathologist using a conversational presentation style with PowerPoint slides summarising salient information. Also included was a presentation by a local woman with a communication disability about her experiences and how staff could assist her better, YouTube videos of Communication Access (produced by CIRC) and using the National Relay Service (NRS) (produced by the NRS). There was also a video of a good communication interaction of a local man with a disability making an enquiry at the council. Written information and a SurveyMonkey evaluation were also included. Staff were provided access to the website via an emailed link and direct managers ensured all staff completed the training. Support was provided by informal peer support, direct managers (who had complete the training content in a face to face format) and email/phone support by the Gippsland Regional Communication’s speech pathologist.
The eLearning Module included the following sections:
- What is Communication Accessibility?
- How do you talk to someone with a disability?
- Communication Boards and Visual Resources at the East Gippsland Council
- Talking on the Phone with a Person with a Disability
- Evaluation Survey
Above: Mary-Lou presenting “How to talk to someone who is difficult to understand”
A total of 23 staff took part in the evaluation. Most staff (91%) completed the training within an hour and most (78%) completed the entire module in one session. The most significant problem reported were internet difficulties with 66% of staff experiencing this. Unfortunately, this reflects the inadequacies of infrastructure in rural and remote communities and is an ongoing challenge of remote and rural life.
All staff reported they could easily access the website and all YouTube videos worked. One person reported the volume of the videos was too low, commenting “The quality and sound of the eLearning could have been much better.”
Overall 83% participants said they liked this style of learning, 13% were ambivalent, and 4% reported they did not like this form of learning.
“I don’t think this style is for everyone, but it is a convenient way to deliver information.”
“I thought it was great. Not too long and not too much reading”
“I learn better when I can interact and ask questions”
“I think that this is a very positive way of learning. It covers different methods of Learning for example visual, text and interactive.”
“Simple and clear to understand.”
The participants had two suggestions to improve training that will be incorporated into future eLearning Modules.
- Printable information “Perhaps a handout/checklist could accompany the videos? Once again, different learning styles, some people may wish to look things over later.” “My only thought was it would be good to have a printable PDF of the slides that were used so we could print them out and have them handy because it was really useful information.”
- Multiple choice “tests” at the end of each section. “More multiple choice questions/surveys following each module.”
Training using an eLearning Module was mostly positively experienced by staff. Internet problems were frequently reported however all staff were able to access the information and most “liked” this form of learning. ELearning has limitations. As one participant pointed out, the ability to ask questions in real time and participate in group discussion are lost compared to face to face training. However rather than considering an eLearning training style as a replacement of face to face training it could be considered another useful tool to build communication accessible communities.
By Mel Newcomen, Gippsland Regional Communication Service.