This project built and launched a central online platform or ‘hub’ for Lifestart’s 250 employees to access information, resources, professional development opportunities and support.
Lifestart provides early intervention and inclusion support for children and young people (0 - 24 years) living with disability or developmental delay, their families and their carers, across metropolitan Sydney and Illawarra/Shoalhaven regions of NSW. Lifestart sees continuing staff professional development and support as essential to the ongoing provision of quality services. Lifestart’s previous experience utilising technology to develop an Online Inclusion platform and related programs (e.g. online therapy and online communities of practice) has provided a strong foundation for this project.
In the NDIS environment, staff are increasingly providing supports in home or community settings and spending less time in the office. This means they have fewer opportunities for informal support and networking. There is also less time for researching or preparing materials. In addition, the costs of training, travel and release of staff to attend learning and development opportunities can be prohibitive.
Lifestart’s Online Learning and Practice Hub was built and officially launched in February 2018. The Hub has brought many pre-existing resources and tools to one, accessible platform. A large number of documents, webinars and podcasts are now available in the library and topic-based ‘suites’ (a single location of links to all the resources on each specific topic) have been very well received. Online communities of practice have been centralised and their reach broadened. The aim is to have all staff engaging with the Hub.
To achieve this, the design was strongly based on user input as collaborative co-development. Professional instructional design was underpinned by brainstorming and feedback from staff in all roles with the organisation. Communications with staff about the project were designed to engage everyone and nearly 100% of approximately 250 staff had ‘logged in’ by the end of the launch period. This experience has enabled Lifestart to provide guidance for organisations in the sector that want to use technology to facilitate access to staff training and support. Importantly, the Hub is designed as an evolving space. Ongoing input by staff is sought via applications on the platform itself and through staff surveys and focus groups. Information about the performance of the Hub is also gained by its in-built analytics that can track user behaviour.
It is anticipated that staff use of the Online Learning and Practice Hub will have a positive and long-term impact on productivity, work satisfaction and staff confidence in continuing to provide quality supports within the NDIS environment. Lifestart has produced a simple set of tips for organisations interested in setting up a similar resource base called ‘Getting online at work’ to share their lessons and insights with the sector.
The Lifestart Online Learning and Practice Hub is now operational within Lifestart and feedback (online and survey) indicates it is successfully bridging some of the identified gaps in accessing information, learning and support faced by staff in the organisation. It is too early at this stage to know the impact on productivity and work satisfaction although initial feedback highlights the need to ensure that users can access what they need quickly and easily to increase engagement.
There is a requirement for on-going management and evolution of the Hub. These activities have been embedded within current roles associated with learning and development. Staff will continue to provide feedback and contribute their ideas and resources within the online community.
Development of the Online Learning and Practice Hub took a significant team effort. Critical to success was a strong linking role between the content experts and the IT developers. Having someone focused on ‘user experience’ and able to ‘translate’ requirements to the technology team was essential.
To engage their broad staff population Lifestart needed to understand the previous experiences in professional development across the range of staff who make up their workforce and customise communications with them. Particular effort was needed to engage staff with roles that are not direct support (e.g. administrative staff). Quick, easy activities such as ‘puzzle challenges’ were used to engage entire work teams and provide a fun opportunity to start using the Hub.
Experiences with Lifestart’s previous projects in this space have underpinned success and have informed what works well and what does not add value when focusing on key outcomes for staff. These include:
These projects also provided small, defined opportunities for staff to increase their interest and confidence to navigate newer technologies and access information and support. Without these clearly defined experiences and the content that projects generated, it would have been very hard to build the Hub and populate it with relevant content prior to launch.