Online induction and training for volunteers is important for both the volunteers and the organisation.

VCTH factsheet 12: Virtual and Online Induction and Training for Volunteers 

Providing your volunteers with thorough induction and training is important for both the volunteers and the organisation. It helps volunteers successfully settle into their roles, enthuses them about the organisation and its work, and encourages them to stay involved for longer.  

For organisations the benefits include; volunteers having the skills and confidence to contribute fully and suggest new ideas, knowing that volunteers and service users are safe and protected from harm, reducing time spent dealing with problems later, and enabling volunteers to support each other and to work independently.  
If you have volunteers starting at different intervals and in different locations, it could be worth thinking about including some virtual or online components to your volunteer induction and training.  This should not entirely replace face-to-face contact, which is important in building relationships with your volunteers.   

This factsheet complements two existing VCTH factsheets on Training Volunteers Face-to-face and on Face-to-face Volunteer Induction.



1. Pros and Cons of E-learning  

E-learning increases the scope and reach of your training. It also reduces the non-learning expenses such as travel, refreshments and room hire. It enables volunteers to work at their own pace and convenience, and to store and subsequently retrieve information. It can allow you to set individualised objectives for each volunteer and provide a tailored induction, by picking and choosing from the training menu. This can be helpful if you have volunteers with different levels of expertise. It can save your staff time, enabling more one-on-one support. It allows for the use of video at the desktop to illustrate key points visually, which can aid in information retention.

The downside of e-learning is the lack of human interaction and direct instructor involvement. Online solutions also tend to eliminate the benefit of volunteers gaining insights from other volunteers through group discussions.
Volunteers who do not have easy access to a computer or the internet, or who are not confident in using online tools can be excluded or disadvantaged.  This can have a negative impact on the diversity of your volunteer-force. 

Good volunteer management is about building relationships with your volunteers and getting to know them. Therefore it is usually good practice to combine online induction or training with face-to-face contact with volunteers.  

2. Different learning styles

Different people are more receptive to various learning styles, so you should build your training in a way that appeals to them all. In general, the 4 most common learning styles are: visual, aural, reading, and kinesthetic. Everyone is a combination of each type but, in most people, one learning style prevails over the other three. Here are some suggestions for planning your e-learning for volunteers according to their learning style:

Visual Learners
Volunteers with this learning style learn best when the training is presented to them visually. Graphics, pictures and videos resonate more strongly with these people. Try adding writing tasks to your training, and handouts are great additions as well – something they can look at and reference. These learner types benefit from pictures and symbols, so add graphs, numbers, and charts to your content so that they absorb the information better.

Aural Learners
Individuals who are audio learners do best when physically listening to the content being taught to them. Traditional face-to-face training sessions are beneficial to these types of people, as they can hear the information. If you want to have more online training, these types of learners will benefit from voice-over videos, audio recordings, and uploaded in-house training recordings. With online training, a big bonus for these learners is that they can always rewind and listen again to the learning material so that they really retain the information. 

Reading Learners 
These individuals learn best by taking in information displayed as words. Their preferred method of having information presented to them is through text-based material. These learners are perfect for textbook style manuals and learning from written handouts and PowerPoint presentations, which can all form part of your e-learning resources.
Kinesthetic Learners
These learners retain the biggest amount of information with their senses. These volunteers learn best by experiencing things hands-on – by doing, moving and touching. Keep in mind that these individuals are more emotional when learning, and since online training accommodates audio and visual learners more, it's important to be creative when training kinesthetic learners. For example, while they are going through their online training, give them physical tasks that they can complete simultaneously.
Remember that that labeling learners as having only one specific learning style may be problematic. There is a multimodal style of learning as well – a person can be an aural learner when it comes to one subject and a visual learner when it comes to a different topic, so you might have to adapt learning tools as you get to know your volunteers.  

3. Virtual tools 

Your organisation's website 
This is a key source of induction information for volunteers. On the website you can include pre-arrival information, i.e. information that is given to volunteers as part of the recruitment process, so that they understand more about the organisation and the role that they are applying for, as well as information they might need on an ongoing basis;   
• Information about the organisation and what it does 
• Volunteer role descriptions 
• Contact details for your organisation, travel directions, and a map of how to get there 

4. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) 

FAQs are a useful tool for providing relevant information on your website about the process of becoming a volunteer, the benefits of volunteering and the support that will be provided. This could include answers to questions such as: 
• Why should I volunteer? (the benefits of volunteering with your organisation)
• What can I do as a volunteer?  (the different roles available)
• How much time would I need to give?
• I work full-time, can I still volunteer? 
• What skills and experience do I need?
• When can I start? 
• How do I apply?
• Will I need a criminal record (DBS disclosure) check?
• Will volunteering affect my benefits?
• I am disabled. Can I volunteer?
• I have a criminal record. Does that mean I can't volunteer?
• What training and support will I get?
• Will my expenses be reimbursed?
• What are my chances of getting a job afterwards?
• Are there any age restrictions on volunteering?
• Do you take teams or groups of volunteers?

5. Videos 

Short videos are a great way of giving information to volunteers. They can also be a good way of involving current or past volunteers, who can share their experience with future volunteers. Videos can be accompanied by written or practical tasks to enable volunteers to engage with the content and retain it. Some examples of videos and tasks could include; 
• Short film giving an overview of the organisation and volunteer programme, the vision and mission of the organisation, and how volunteers contribute to this. The task could be for volunteers to write down a list of ways that their volunteer role contributes to the vision of the organisation. 
• Video introducing the support that volunteers will receive, including their supervisor, the Volunteer Coordinator, regular supervision sessions and what they cover, what to do if they have a complaint or problem. The task could include a quiz on who they should contact about different issues.  

6. Presentations 

Information that can be used for online induction and within a face-to-face training context can be created easily using MS PowerPoint and shared with volunteers via your website, intranet or shared drive. Remember to include photos and diagrams to make the information stimulating and interesting.  
There are also other presentation tools and infographic tools such as: 

7. Case study: MND

MND Association’s online induction covers the following areas: 
• what is Motor Neurone Disease
• the work of the Association and our aims and values
• the importance of volunteers in carrying out our work
• the main policies to be aware of as a volunteer
• the support, information and guidance that you can expect.

This is combined with face-to-face training or a meeting with the Volunteer Coordinator.   

8. Case study: Parkinson's UK

Parkinson’s UK induction is a series of online modules which feature quizzes, videos and various scenarios.  The modules are: 
What is Parkinson's?
How does Parkinson's UK support people?
Volunteering practicalities
Managing your volunteering

9. Volunteer Handbook 

This is a key resource for volunteers and should provide information on most aspects of volunteering with your organisation. Volunteer Handbooks commonly include the following information: 

• Welcome (could be from the organisation’s Chief Executive or Chair of Trustees)
• Overview of the volunteer programme
• Mutual expectations and behaviours

Starting to volunteer 
• Induction checklist 
• Policies and where to find them 
• Confidentiality agreement
• Claiming expenses 
• Local information 

Support and development 
• Training
• Support and supervision 
• Solving problems 
• Complaints 
• Giving feedback 

Moving on 
• Extending your volunteer role
• Transferring to another volunteer role 
• Getting a paid job internally
• References 
• Exit interviews and survey

10. Policy bank 

Key policies relevant to volunteers can be stored in an easily-accessible place on the shared drive or the organisation’s internal intranet. Policies relevant to volunteers often include; Volunteer Policy, Health & Safety, Confidentiality, Data Protection, Safeguarding, Social Media Policy, Code of Conduct, and Problem-solving or Complaints Procedure.

11. Forms bank 

Key forms that volunteers use on a regular basis can also be stored in a central place on the shared drive or intranet. These could include; volunteer timesheets, expense claim forms, personal development plans, incident report forms, etc. 

12. Online quizzes

A quiz is a fun way to check volunteers’ understanding of written material. You might like to consider quizzes on the following areas: 
• Key information in the Volunteer Handbook 
• Confidentiality and data protection 
• Health and Safety 
• Expenses policy and processes
There are many free software packages for creating quizzes, such as Free Quiz Maker or QuizWorks. Alternatively if you don’t need to know the volunteer’s answers, a simple PowerPoint presentation can be used, with one slide posing the quiz question and the next one showing the answer.  

13. Case studies 

Case studies can be a good way of getting volunteers to think about issues that they might encounter. You might like to consider case studies on the following areas: 
• Safeguarding and (in)appropriate behaviour 
• Accepting gifts from service users/clients 
• Asking for support when needed 
• What to do when there is a problem 

14. Online training providers and resources

Below is a list of online training and resource providers that you can consider. This list is correct as of November 2016. 
NCVO Know How Not Profit: low cost online courses (most cost £8.99) on a variety of voluntary-sector related topics such as fundraising, event management, volunteer management, risk assessment etc.
Future Learn: free online training courses from top universities  
Skills Network: a range of free NCFE Level 2 distance learning courses on a wide range of topics. Candidates must be aged 19 or over to be eligible for funding and have lived in the UK for the last 3 years. Topics include: Awareness Of Mental Health Problems, Working with Individuals with Learning Disabilities, Autism, Preparing to Work In Adult Health and Social Care, Caring for Children and Young People, Business and Administration, Team Leading, Customer Service, Information, Advice and Guidance and Counselling skills and a lot more
Tower Hamlets CVS: a wide range of resources on fundraising, finance, charity governance, social media, local Tower Hamlets context, legal updates, monitoring and evaluation 
Idea Store Learning: offers over 900 courses in a wide range of subjects. Courses cost an average of just £2.20 per hour and many people qualify for reduced concessionary fees. Courses include: Customer service,  Introduction to Management, Confidence to Succeed etc.
Tower Hamlets Local Safeguarding Children’s Board: e-learning on child protection and working with families  
Suzy Lamplugh Trust: information and resources on personal safety and lone working 
Vision2Learn: Free accredited courses, such as Business & Admin (level 2), Essential IT skills (levels 1 & 2), Customer Service (level 2), Equality and Diversity, Dignity and Safeguarding, Working in the Health Sector, etc.  To qualify, volunteers must be aged 19+ and have lived in the EU for 3+ years  

15. Further support from Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets (VCTH)

Best Practice Advice
If your organisation is based in Tower Hamlets, we are offering a free advice service until March 2018.  We can help you develop and review your volunteer induction and training programme.  For further information please contact Evelyn Rodrigues, Training & Best Practice Manager, on 020 7377 0956 or 

Training for Volunteer Managers
VCTH runs regular half-day training courses for people who manage volunteers, including training on Inducting Volunteers. Courses are advertised in our monthly e-bulletin and on our website, with prices starting from just £30. Training for Volunteer Managers.

Other factsheets
This factsheet is one in a range produced by Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets, including factsheets on face-to-face induction and training. You can view our other free factsheets on volunteer management topics on our website.


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