e-Learning at Oxfam
e-learning Plays a Key Role in Oxfam's Training Strategy
Oxfam is dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world. To do so successfully it requires a co-ordinated, well trained team across the globe. SkillSoft is working with Oxfam to develop appropriate e-learning soft skills solutions.
Oxfam has around 4000 staff worldwide, 22,000 volunteers and a presence in 90 countries with offices in 72 of these.
As Learning and Development Manager, Andrew Thompson knows how important it is that Oxfam works effectively and consistently in all 90 countries in which it operates and that its staff are similarly trained and skilled. Andrew says: "Working in areas where there have been disasters makes the skills and behaviour of our staff of critical importance. These skills must be transferable from one area of the world to another." He admits that the bigger Oxfam gets the harder it is to replicate the best of Oxfam's culture throughout the organisation.
Oxfam is presently undergoing a restructuring programme and Andrew is keen to use this to improve the accessibility and relevance of learning and development for staff. He sees a very positive role for e-learning in this programme, delivering these benefits:
- e-learning, by it's very nature, promotes a culture of self-managed learning
- Access to learning is increased, with junior staff having the same opportunity to learn and develop their skills as senior staff and staff that haven't had training in recent years now having renewed access
- Many staff work remotely and have operational roles where travelling to undertake training isn't an option.
Andrew strongly believes that the benefits of e-learning are important in bringing consistency and structure to Oxfam not in isolation but as part of a blend of learning methods. "We would like our staff to have access to cost-effective learning that meets the needs of the organisation and is delivered as close to the workplace as possible." Therefore his intention is to use e-learning alongside other teaching techniques including instructor-led training, on-the-job training and coaching. He envisages a fresh intake of staff for training programmes every six months. The programme will consist of a true blend of all training methods available, each used at the right time and in the right way including e-learning courses, virtual chat rooms, on-line tutor support, instructor-led modules and on-the-job coaching.
e-learning will play a leading role in the programme and is being received with a great deal of enthusiasm. Oxfam conducted a 30 person pilot test which attracted 90 volunteers! Andrew recognises SkillSoft's role as a leading e-learning provider and says: "Our programme was very diverse and SkillSoft was the only provider that had an extensive library covering our particular needs. It saved us having to use a number of different suppliers. SkillSoft's learner management system is also highly personalised for each learner and much more flexible than many of the others. I would gradually like to add more courses and extend the number of users to our programme - not just in the UK but throughout Oxfam's 90 locations. SkillSoft has the flexibility for us to do this."
For example, Andrew sees a potential role for e-learning in the future to help Oxfam's fight against poverty by helping to develop the community groups Oxfam works with overseas. "By helping improve the financial skills of certain community groups that we fund for instance, we are helping them budget better and assisting them in their struggle against poverty."
Reproduced with permission from SkillSoft's Focus on e-learning magazine, copyright held by Andrew Thompson/Oxfam