Congratulations—a new batch of volunteers just signed up to support your organization! But recruitment is only part of the process. Before they can truly get to work, they’ll likely go through a training or onboarding program to bring them up to speed.
The clarity and organization (or lack thereof) of this program form the basis of a volunteer’s first interaction with you and your organization. A misstep at this critical juncture can make a lasting bad impression. A volunteer who feels confused or lost may be less likely to continue their work with your nonprofit, and miscommunications or omissions in the training process could even lead to consequential mistakes by volunteers.
To ensure your volunteers stay productive and engaged throughout their involvement with your organization, you should design an effective digital training curriculum that sets them up for success.
Galaxy Digital has partnered with Skyepack, a company that specializes in designing digital courses, to bring you e-learning expertise. In this article, we’ll explore:
- Advantages of a consistent digital training program
- Understanding the curriculum design process
- Best practices for creating a digital volunteer training curriculum
One of the ongoing challenges of volunteer management is ensuring that all volunteers have the skills, knowledge, tools, and resources they need to execute their responsibilities. The level of knowledge they need will vary widely across and within roles, depending on the nature of the volunteer role.
With a well-defined digital course for volunteers in place, your team will be properly equipped to train new volunteers and boost the skills of longtime supporters. Let’s dive in!
Advantages of a Digital Volunteer Training Program
As a volunteer training coordinator, you likely have some experience being on the other side of the training process.
Picture the most frustrating, confusing, or inadequate volunteer training program you’ve been through. What aspects made it particularly challenging? Perhaps you had a printed packet of outdated materials, or maybe you got a quick in-person walk-through of procedures that left questions unanswered. Or, maybe your training seemed to vary dramatically from that of your peers.
By creating a digital course for your volunteers, you ensure each individual receives training that is comprehensive and consistent.
A seamless and engaging training experience will support your broader efforts for volunteer retention. According to Double the Donation’s guide to volunteer management, effective training and onboarding empowers your volunteers and boosts long-term engagement.
Additional benefits of digital courses include the following:
- The course is customized to your unique organization. Every nonprofit is different, and these variations should be reflected in your training program. Your training course should include the background of your cause or need, any applicable rules and regulations, and relevant safety measures.
- Volunteers have continuous access to material. With a one-time training session or easily misplaced packet, it can be challenging to find answers to questions that come up. A digital training course will remain available to volunteers for as long as they need it.
- The course is convenient. With a digital course on a cloud-based platform, volunteers can access the material on a variety of desktop and mobile devices. This mobile convenience is especially helpful if they need to consult the training course during a volunteer activity.
With a digital training course, there’s also less demand on the volunteer coordinator. When new volunteers are onboarded, there’s no need to schedule lengthy training sessions or prepare printed materials. The course will be ready to go, ensuring a consistent training experience for each volunteer.
Understanding the Curriculum Design Process
The process of designing a curriculum for any kind of educational experience will vary across organizations and institutions. Skyepack uses a curriculum development process based on Agile design principles.
In practice, this means we create courses that prioritize the needs of instructors and students, even as those needs change over time. This process is a continuously evolving cycle rather than simply a one-and-done project.
Designing a digital curriculum for volunteer training can follow a similar process to the one seen in this graphic:
- Analyze. Determine the needs of the training program from the perspective of the organization and its volunteers.
- Research. Assess existing training materials and evaluate potential areas of improvement for training.
- Design. Create a dynamic and engaging flow for the course that follows a logical sequence.
- Curate. Curate existing training documents, videos, and other resources and create new content for the course. Alongside informational material, you should also include interactive elements like quizzes or drag-and-drop activities that enable volunteers to engage more deeply with the content.
- Build. Build the digital course itself within a cloud-based delivery platform. This is the stage where each element of the design process finally comes together.
- Launch. Release the course to volunteers and kick-off the training process. However, launch day isn’t the finish line of the design process. You should continue to reassess the course and make improvements over time.
As you navigate this process, consider whether you need one comprehensive training course or specialized versions for specific volunteer roles or tasks. For example, in-person volunteering may look very different from virtual volunteering, meaning you might need adjusted training resources for each.
Best Practices for Creating a Digital Curriculum for Volunteer Training
Focus on user experience
If you create a complicated digital course that’s challenging or cumbersome to use, you won’t be able to reap all of the potential benefits.
To make sure your volunteer course achieves its objectives, focus on providing a positive user experience. A well-designed nonprofit UX will create more dynamic relationships between volunteers and your organization.
Every aspect of your training program should be intuitive and user-friendly. Look for a well-organized interface that makes it easy for volunteers to navigate and locate the desired information.
Since more than 50% of global web traffic comes from mobile devices, you’ll also want to confirm your digital training course functions appropriately on smartphones and tablets.
Continue optimizing the experience over time
Earlier in this article, we explored how course design should be a cycle rather than a linear process. After you implement your digital volunteer training course, you should continue to make improvements that reflect the changing needs of your nonprofit and address any weaknesses in the course.
One way to find sticking points in your training is by surveying volunteers. While it may be tempting to tack this survey onto the end of the training course, it will be more valuable to gather feedback after volunteers have had the opportunity to put the information to use.
You might include questions such as:
- Were there any topic areas that you found confusing?
- Were there any noticeable gaps in content?
- What topics did you find most engaging and helpful?
- What other information would have better prepared you for your role?
In addition to these open-ended questions, you may also pull data from your content delivery platform that indicates where trainees spent the most (or least) time and which quiz questions were most challenging. Collecting a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data points will help you make more informed decisions to improve your course.
Leverage recent tech trends and innovations
Today’s e-learning experiences can be much more than just digital versions of traditional books and materials. As the field of educational technology continues to innovate, instructional designers are finding new ways to enhance student learning.
As you design the digital curriculum for your volunteer training program, implement features that represent the best of what e-learning has to offer. For inspiration, this list of instructional design trends includes up-and-coming ideas such as:
- Personalized learning
- Social learning
By incorporating one or more of these components into your training course, you’ll help volunteers engage more deeply with the learning experience and retain more of the information over time.
The training and onboarding process is a volunteer’s first major interaction with your organization. Make sure to start your relationship with each individual on the right foot by creating a comprehensive digital course for volunteer training. By creating an intuitive and informational course, you’ll put volunteers on a long path of mutually beneficial involvement. Good luck!
Austin Bates: Director of Operations & Instructional Design
Born and raised in Texas, Austin learned at an early age the importance of dedication to a craft. During his Masters pursuit at Texas A&M University in Educational Technology, Austin began to question “Why not create better ways to teach in the online environment?” Skyepack soon became his catalyst for this new paradigm in online instruction. He is valued for his abilities to plan course designs, implement powerful teaching technology, and execute daily production assignments. In his spare time, Austin enjoys biking, watching football, and making every minute count.