Barnardo’s, the children’s charity, has halved the number of time-consuming face-to-face training sessions it holds for staff with the use of online conferencing tools.
The charity has been using virtual classrooms for around three years to train staff on its IT systems. It started using web conferencing solutions from WebEx Enterprise Edition for training in Barnardo’s IT systems last October.
Lisa Johnson, information services learning and development at Barnardo’s, said: “Training the staff without any form of distance learning would mean a combination of classroom sessions and on-site visits, but that approach wouldn’t be particularly efficient.”
“It would often be impossible to make a personal visit to a remote office and be back on the same day, or at least within working hours. We needed a solution that would be able to reduce our dependence on travel and allow us to reach more people in less time, while still being flexible and easy-to-use for non-technically minded staff.”
According to Johnson, before the charity started using virtual classrooms, 75 percent of training would have taken place in face-to-face classroom sessions, with 25 percent taking place on site. Using the web conferencing tools from WebEx, she said that 50 percent of training now takes place online, with the other half split evenly between classroom sessions and on-site visits.
“Classroom-based training sessions require not just the trainer, but all relevant staff, to congregate in one place, meaning significant travel time. With WebEx, we can easily do as many as four online training sessions in a day, with no travel required,” said Johnson.
Barnardo’s, which is headquartered in Barkingside in Essex, has nine regional offices across the UK. Johnson is based in Manchester, and the rest of her team is also based in the north. The central team is expected to train the charity’s 8,000 employees, not including volunteers, who need to know how to use Barnardo’s IT systems and processes.
Johnson said the main driver for Barnardo’s to migrate training online was budget cuts.
“At the time that we were exploring virtual learning, there were budget cuts. At one point, I had 12 trainers. That has been cut down to myself and four others. So I had reduced training resources, more users and wide geographical spread. Calls to our help desk were also high,” she explained.
Barnardo’s delivers its training sessions via WebEx’s website-based Training Center tool. Johnson said that the only things an employee needs in order to take part in a training session is a Barnardo’s computer with internet access and a telephone. The application runs on Windows XP environment with IE5.
Prior to this distance-learning option, Johnson said that face-to-face training would take between half a day to a day. Training via WebEx takes up to just 45 minutes.
In addition, with classroom sessions, there was also a problem with new staff inductions being delayed because a certain number had to be available for training before a session could be scheduled.
“For a new joiner that could mean a week or more before being formally inducted and trained on basic IT processes,” said Johnson. “WebEx gives us the freedom to host those sessions remotely, whenever they are needed, enabling new recruits to get going much faster.”
Consequently, induction at Barnardo’s is now delivered entirely through WebEx, and up to 25 employees can be in each session. The charity limits the number of trainees in a session depending on the complexity of the topic being covered, and still covers more complex training subjects face-to-face.
Nonetheless, while the charity initially identified 12 core training sessions to be delivered using WebEx, it now provides around 25 sessions monthly, and uses the service between four to six days a month.
Barnardo’s has a range of additional services available through WebEx Enterprise Edition at its disposal. The charity last week announced that it would be rolling out WebEx Audio and Meeting Center across the organisation after conducting a trial of the applications by encouraging some managers to hold virtual meetings, from October 2009 to March 2010. It is also looking at WebEx’s recording function to see how that can be exploited, for example, by recording induction sessions for employees who missed them.
“It would be very interesting to use WebEx itself as a fundraising or marketing tool,” Johnson added.
In 2008, Barnardo’s deployed EMC’s Infra service management software to help support 7,000 IT users UK-wide — from HQ staff and charity shop workers to staff and children in specialist projects.