By CHM publishing editor Steve Hemsley
Traditional face-to-face training allows learners to ask questions, network with others, physically participate in activities and receive live and appropriate feedback to build their skills around their own specific needs.
Yet eLearning is growing in popularity and is ideal for more visual learners and where flexibility is needed around where and when training takes place. With margins tight, eLearning can be a cheaper option for conveying regulatory and compliance information around care processes and procedures and is perfect for employees with the discipline to self-study.
However there are certain skills that cannot be learnt appropriately online because practical work needs to be assessed. This includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training. It is also difficult to learn how to use hoists or other practical equipment via a computer.
At Anchor Trust, national learning and development manager Sam Leonard-Rawlings says the current split is 70 per cent online learning and 30 per cent face-to-face.
Anchor has around 120 care homes across England and online learning is increasingly being used in a blended way, for example, to boost someone’s initial level of knowledge prior to a face to face session on a topic such as dementia
“You shouldn’t think of one method being better than the other,” says Leonard-Rawlings. “You need to consider what would be the best method and solution for each training need.”
At Springhill Care Group, which has properties in Lancashire and Bristol, the split is reversed.
Head of learning and development Mike Lakins says 70 per cent of the training delivered to its staff is still face-to-face because people need to be supported through supervisions, observations and competency assessments to ensure high standards.
Springhill Care Group, named one of the 1,000 companies to Inspire Britain in a report by the London Stock Exchange Group, uses eLearning to provide access to training for employees based in different locations, and to refresh people’s knowledge annually around subjects such as health and safety and infection prevention and control. Lakins says: “Managed well by an experienced learning and development professional eLearning can be a great tool.
Choosing what works
At an awards ceremony run by training provider Qube Learning, Caring Homes Group won the Large Employer of the Year honour partly because of its positive work with hiring apprentices. Qube Learning’s CEO Joe Crossley says apprenticeships are a way to attract new talent or to retrain what is typically an ageing or under-skilled UK workforce. “Knowledge-based activities work best online, such as quizzes, presentations, written assignments, online lectures/classrooms and peer support within a forum environment,” says Crossley. “Face-to-face is best reserved for mentor support as well as evidence gathering around professional discussions or observations.”
So what do other training providers think about the steady shift from face-to-face learning to online?
Founder of Tidal Training Colin Frensham says constraints on time and budget have fuelled the trend.
“Online training supports a business’s need to be flexible with time. However one key client we have worked with for five years refuses to train its staff through the online medium believing that true value is given through face-to-face engagement.”
This can certainly be true when looking to improve soft skills which help to ensure that a care home’s ethics, values, policies and procedures are understood and shared throughout the workplace.
“People have different learning styles and it is the responsibility of the care home to judge appropriately as to the most effective route to learning for their staff. For more complex subjects and those that integrally require practical elements, face to face is by its nature an optimal route,” says Frensham.
Gary Hook founded Edify Training in 2006 after attending different training sessions. He believes the key question to consider is whether you want staff to come away knowing lots of facts about care or to leave a training room inspired to care for their residents to the highest possible standard
What Hook is explaining is sometimes the subtle difference between training and learning.
This was discussed at the recent Alzheimer’s Society annual conference by Isabelle Latham, dementia researcher at the University of Worcester. She says care workers need to learn to care and this all comes down to the relationship between care giver and receiver. This means the training must be integrated with other forms of learning to achieve maximum benefit.
“Managers need to consider the definition of a good result, the compromises on the ground that workers might be making and how interactions with colleagues: informal and formal contact will impact on care,” she says. “This will depend on how varied staff roles are, whether people have communication and mentoring skills and their personal relationships. Do we know the effect of factors such as ‘water cooler chat’ on training?”
She adds that residents can also influence and boost learning thanks to the different real-life situations they create.
It is impossible to halt the rise of technology in training but care homes must use it wisely. Whether eLearning or face to face it is crucial decisions are made on the value received and not purely on the price paid.