Donna Brannigan and Melanie Crabbe are part of the Careers & Employment team at WALK and develop online Careers & Employment training.
WALK is a disability service in Ireland and are the leaders in movement for change. WALK work alongside individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism supporting them to lead self-determined lives and achieve personal goals and ambitions. Careers and Employment are a central aspect to this, and the utilization of online learning has opened a new world of possibilities.
WALK’s online learning has come a long way since Donna and Melanie’s first ventures into the world of eLearning during the first Covid-19 Lockdown in March 2020. From their success story, you’ll learn what it’s like to start an eLearning initiative as a non-profit and how iSpring helps WALK grow closer to their participants.
The Background: Empowering People with Disabilities
WALK is a support service organization based in Dublin, Ireland. We support people with disabilities to lead independent lives, finding pathways to equal education, and entering the mainstream labor market.
Currently, we implement two programs: Realising Employment Ambitions in Life (REAL) and Providing Equal Employment Routes (PEER). The REAL program help people with intellectual disabilities gain and sustain employment and build greater prospects for a future career. The PEER program helps young adults, 15–17 years old, transition from school to the workplace; and is currently in three special schools in Ireland.
I’m the employability skills trainer, and my colleague Melanie is the careers and employment facilitator and job coach. When WALK adopted eLearning two years ago, we also took on the role of online engagement and development officer.
The Challenge: Engage Learners with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism in Online Training
COVID-19 really changed things and gave us a challenge, with everybody staying at home; we had to stop all in-person support. Under those circumstances, we started to seek new ways to continue communication channels, keep the connection with participants and maintain engagement. In addition, we realized the importance of digital skills, especially in the world of work. Clearly, we needed to help our participants build these kinds of skills.
We tried numerous online tools and free resources to make our training digital and at the same time maintain open, vibrant communication and avoid a sense of isolation. Our aim was to introduce a new type of learning that was easy to get started and was engaging.
We began trying out various learning management systems and authoring tools. But it took us a while to find the software solution that could help us engage our learners and make it all real for them.
The Solution: iSpring Suite
After a lot of research, we chose to go with the iSpring Suite authoring tool and bought a lifetime license. It was clear from the start that creating content with this tool would be no trouble at all.
What we love about iSpring is that it’s in PowerPoint. So if you like PowerPoint, then you already know how to use iSpring.
The entire authoring process is very easy to learn. With just a little bit of time, you can do everything so quickly, and that’s what we really love about iSpring. We can create courses from existing slides and then pull them from the SCORM package into our learning management system in only a few clicks.
iSpring Suite really lends itself well to that person who’s pushed to quickly engage in eLearning.
The toolkit is simple and accessible, and it’s very user-friendly, which is important. Other authoring tools can be so complex that they take away your eagerness to discover how to do things. But with iSpring, even the branched scenarios are simple to navigate.
It’s difficult to find something that really suits different learning needs. So iSpring was really beneficial. It addresses the challenge of making things real in training. Courses made with iSpring Suite are not cartoonish, and the characters and backgrounds are not childish or abstract—they are all real, which makes the learning more tangible.
Tiny things you can do on iSpring that you can’t do elsewhere are really important.
There are the features we especially love in iSpring Suite, and which our LMS with a built-in authoring tool lacks. For example, iSpring Suite enables you to change the emotions of characters and display them on the Emotion Meter on each slide; this helps our participants better understand the context of the conversation.
Part of our job is to enrich the online learning experience with something our learners are familiar with. To get this effect, we love using the voice-over recording feature in iSpring as the participants benefit from hearing a familiar, comfortable voice.
We also upload customized backgrounds into the courses, to take learners to places they know and recognize. We uploaded a background photo of The Green Kitchen & Garden Shop by WALK, for example, a café where everybody meets and has lunch. Backgrounds in iSpring offer a big selection of choices.
Most frequently, we use iSpring to create quizzes, including multiple choice, drag and drop, and mix and match types.
Quizzes made with iSpring are brilliant for us in finding out what learners want in life.
By asking questions like “Do you want a job that is quiet or busy?” or “What do you like more: a large environment or a small environment, indoors or outdoors?” we get to know our learners better and can adjust their career training paths more appropriately.
Quiz reporting is another thing we love about iSpring. When you create a quiz, you can put in your email and get the quiz results sent to you as a comprehensive report. Now we instantly know how long it takes a learner to complete a quiz, and what answers were chosen; and none of this requires an LMS!
We’ve been using iSpring Suite for a year, and so far we’ve used it for some content creation to make three courses. We also embed content made with the tool into a lot of other contexts. eLearning drives us forward and helps engage a much larger number of participants. We now have over 200 people doing our courses, and we hope this number will grow.
In 2021, our REAL Ability Project won a Special Recognition Award from the European Social Fund. This award was given in appreciation for “empowering learners to take charge of their learning and building staff capacity to support people remotely during COVID-19 restrictions.”
In the future, we plan to expand the use of online courses for staff training and conduct workshops for other content designers from the nonprofit sphere, sharing our experiences and being the leaders for change.
It’s fantastic that iSpring offers discounts to nonprofit organizations; too many places don’t. This empowers nonprofits to get on board with eLearning and keep up with the big education centers. iSpring is a tremendous opportunity.