Most success stories have a history of challenges, obstacles, and resistance that had to be overcome before attaining any success. That is exactly what happened at Brevard Zoo when we first implemented the eLearning Academy. But we are now well on our way to having a successful and enriching learning and communication tool for staff and volunteers alike.
We did things a little backwards in comparison to most organizations: we introduced the eLearning Academy first with our volunteers, since a donor who supports the volunteer program provided the funding. The volunteers use it for the learning modules, but also to communicate with one another. For example, the volunteers who are part of the Sea Turtle Healing Center Team communicate back and forth using “Discussions.” Many things can change from one shift to another, so they use Discussions to give each other animal updates. Likewise, our Greenhouse Team uses discussions to let other shifts know what they have done, such as watering, planting, and fertilizing, and they can leave updates on what seeds the commissary would like to have planted. The staff that supervises these volunteers has also been registered on the appropriate team, so they can communicate with their volunteers and read the updates posted. This also allows them a great platform for uploading resources they want the volunteers to read.
HR is now actively encouraging staff to register and utilize the many available modules. Several of the compliance modules have been made a mandatory part of the onboarding and orientation process, while other modules are deemed mandatory by individual departments. The number of additional job-related modules taken by an individual is tracked and used when determining the amount of that individual’s annual bonus.
The DIY feature is used to create our own Brevard Zoo-specific modules, also used as part of the orientation and training process to save dollars (staff time) and improve efficiencies. It also guarantees every new staff member or volunteer is receiving the same information. We are still experimenting with the DIY feature, but we will be greatly increasing our utilization in 2016. We continue to discover new ways to use the “Teams” feature, again both for staff and volunteers. The “Events” page is a particularly effective tool for our Conservation Team, for posting and seeking volunteer help in its many offsite programs.
As part of their strategies and goals for 2016, the HR director and the volunteer director jointly have several goals that are directly related to the Academy: e.g., ensure high quality training through a blended learning approach and increase volunteer/staff retention. For those who want to learn more, the Academy certainly enhances staff/volunteer retention. We feel the Academy is an important component of blended learning, and we strive to use it to the fullest capacity to attain our goals for this year and going forward. We’ve come a long way from merely trying to get the volunteers to register on the Academy; now, both volunteers and staff are actively participating. Training staff and management are using it as benchmark component for individual financial reward and advancement within the organization.
We’re looking forward to using eLearning with ever-enhanced expansion of our blended learning and communication methodologies. We find that eLearning is strongly utilized and appreciated by those who are looking for a long-term career within the organization. It’s one more perk to offer those staff and volunteers who are committed to the organization and have embraced our mission: Wildlife Conservation through Education and Participation.
Brevard Zoo’s eLearning team wearing their Academy shirts