Recently, whilst planning a longer post about social care inductions, I have been thinking a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of online training courses. In particular, my mind has been focussed on online safeguarding training.
This came about when I recently agreed to run a course for people wishing to enter social care. I began to think about what I was going to deliver, and indeed how I was going to deliver this. Then it occurred to me that some of these learners will never have come into contact with vulnerable people in a professional capacity; similarly to those who apply for a job somewhere with no experience. I had to think about how I could go about enabling them to all retain as much information as possible.
Online training offers us a lot of flexibility, for example it is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. What more could we ask for? This caters for those workers with commitments during the day, those who work nights and cannot attend day courses and it can be completed at home. Lets not also forget that it is extremely low cost (if not free) and is also an effective way to offer ‘refresher’ training to staff. Online training also produces a certificate, from an outside training provider, which always looks good when being inspected by a regulator. You can also enrol lots of people at once, meaning you can easily comply with regulations. Online safeguarding training is also updated (not in all though!), providing the most up-to-date information from national policies and legislation. A quick scan of google has shown up online safeguarding training (introductory and advanced) that takes from as little as an hour. Wow! You can even save on staffing costs. With minimal effort, from online safeguarding training you can confidently say that ‘all employees have been trained in safeguarding adults (and/or children)’. That would be music to an inspector’s ear (not just meaning inspectors from regulators but also those from other agencies such as local authorities who may conduct an inspection/audit).
BUT… at what cost do we get all the above? Safeguarding is the single most important aspect of working in health, social care, education, criminal justice and other helping professions/services. People learn in different ways and it is my opinion that when training employees (inc. Volunteers and students) in safeguarding adults or children, we should use multiple teaching and assessment methods. People need the opportunity to ask questions, to share knowledge with others, and to explore their own emotions when learning about a tough topic. We mustn’t also forget that local policies differ; not necessarily in a big way, but names of teams, professionals, services, policies, protocols will vary across local authority boundaries. For example, in the area I live I would call the ‘Referral and Assessment Team’ to make a referral relating to the safety of a vulnerable adult or child, but in neighbouring authorities I would call the ‘Intake and Duty Team’, the ‘Locality Children’s Team’, the ‘Access and Assessment Team’. Navigating ourselves around statutory services can be difficult enough, even more so if your training has simply said ‘call social services’.
Generic online safeguarding training will not tell you who your Local Authority Designated Officer is, for example. Basic local information can be lost in generic courses. I can’t imagine online training incorporating local serious case reviews into the course either. It is all well and good hearing about ‘cases’ that have had a national impact, but there is also a lot to be learnt from mistakes and best practice locally. This can only be offered through adequate training, from someone who knows the local area and local services.
In my opinions safeguarding training should be delivered using multiple methods. This includes online/elearning, handouts and printed material, group activities (large and small), independent study, action learning, using videos/DVD’s, quizzes and ‘fun’ games, presentations, lecturing, using ‘what to do if…’ case studies, and a final assessment (essay, production of a leaflet, multiple choice test, other tests etc). Why do I think we need to use all these methods? Well, people learn at different rates and retain information best, based on their individual learning style. This isn’t a topic we can afford to minimise, or save money on, or simply ‘tick boxes’ over. Every single person working in a helping profession (including admin and business support staff) will come into contact with a safeguarding issue and we need to ensure our sectors remain competent to effectively deal with these situations. We should always be looking at ways to maximise the skill base of the sector. We also have to consider follow-up checks. A method I have seen used is that a case study based team meeting is held six weeks after an employee has done their training (or refresher). This is a good final check of competency and also a good development exercise for a team. Safeguarding should always be on the agenda for team meetings.
Also, we have to think about who is tasked with quality checking online training. I am not at all against it, I think it compliments face to face teaching brilliantly, but how do we know what the quality is like. I could put anyone on an online safeguarding course that perfectly explains Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards in relation to elderly care homes, but is that knowledge really tailored enough if you work in supported living with teenagers, or if you’re a trauma nurse, or a children’s sports coach? Registering for face to face courses, the trainer can tailor the course towards those who are attending. This isn’t possible with online training.
To end this relatively brief post (for me, anyway) I will summarise by saying that online safeguarding training is fantastic, as long as it is used in addition to face to face training. Different teaching and assessment methods are required in order to engage people and to ensure maximum information has been retained. Safeguarding training, learning and development is an ongoing process and should be incorporated into team meetings, supervision, and formal training. Also a single online course does evidence compliance, this doesn’t necessarily evidence that you are doing all you can to safeguard vulnerable people. Training should include other topics associated with safeguarding, such as information sharing, assessing needs, risk assessing, advocacy and the role of local and national services.
What was said on twitter
@Ermintrude2 i think space to discuss and ask/answer questions is important to check learning
@Ermintrude2 yes, i wonder what the ‘validation’ is worth and how many check..
@Ermintrude2 I think there needs to be a space to discuss – can see online to add additional info
@444blackcat yes good training gives opp to bounce ideas n knowledge with peers n trainer
@Ermintrude2 I think it’s both insulting and dangerous to reduce to 1 hour online 😦 Even one day is tough.
@andymcnicoll Yeah, can see benefit of online learning in some contexts but safeguarding far too complex surely.
@444blackcat u need to be able to ask any q which pops up its a complex subject that needs ftof interaction
@Ermintrude2 but yes, I suspect it’s completely about cost and box-ticking. ‘Training offered’ TICK – nothing about quality.
@Ermintrude2 our LA provide free training to all agencies within its boundaries. They can all attend our LA training free of charge.
@padraig48 IMHO its the same as approach to SEN, deny it exists and you are no longer responsible for it, simple cynical & calculated
@andymcnicoll Only 1 hour online course to ‘learn’ all you need to know safeguarding? That’s absurd surely?
@Ermintrude2 false economy – easy for employers to say they ‘offer training’. Online should augment not replace f2f training
@padraig48 Its driven by Gove,reduced working together to less than 30 pages from hundreds, removing ECM, making his dept just Education
@444blackcat really it cant our Trust does a barely adequate half day course compared to the LAs 2 day one hour online is a joke
@ConnorKinsella Plenty, Andrew but not in 140 c’s. Let’s just say it’s one of several good reason for my leaving the training business
@padraig48 Its a scandal of fairly epic proportions, my previous employer use this and its purely to save time/money,teaches nothing.