An overview of how the team at Rover Training Victoria go about the surprisingly-frequent process of turning a dry national document into a vibrant training course that meets the needs of our members.
Scouts Australia is a federation of state organisations, and one of the things that we have agreed to do at a national level is training. Each state and territory meets the requirements laid out in a short document called the national curriculum for Rover Scouts. It lists the aims of each session, learning outcomes and performance criteria … that’s training speak for “what the participants need to get out of each session.”
We’ve gone through the entire process of turning that document into a course that meets the needs of Victorian Rovers three times now — starting back in 2012 when I was Training Officer and around the time that the eLearning system was finishing its initial rollout. We were asked by the training commissioner at the time to look into the ways that we could make the most of the new way of doing things to make a better basic course for our Rovers… so we did, building a new course that was almost all hands-on, lots of activities and generally more fun. We had an enthusiastic group of participants to try the course out for us, and they really got on board with it, giving us lots of great feedback.
Some of the key people in that group came back to us the next year and said they had enjoyed the basic so much that they wanted to come back and do their advanced course with us…so taking what we had learnt from rebuilding the basic course, a smaller group spent a day constructing a better advanced course that would match the experience they had gotten completing the basic course.
With small alterations, we ran those courses for about three years — until 2015, when our training was freed from the extra requirements we had been working with since the organisation decided that baking in VET qualifications to the training program was a good idea in the early 2000’s.
Some changes were made immediately, but we decided that between the changes to SAIT, the new national curriculum and just that it had been a few years since we created the current courses, we should sit down to see how we could take the lessons of the past few years to make our courses even better than before.
The 2016 Update
We decided that, since we had experience with the process of constructing a course, we would spend one weekend just getting both the Basic and Advanced Practical courses done. So we arrived bright and early on a Saturday morning at the State Office, making the imminently sensible decision to start at the beginning, with the Basic course.
We began with looking at the sessions in the national curriculum, looking for things that would go together well and then moved onto brainstorming the course structure. Taking the view that the basic course provides the basic skills to be a really great Rover, we wanted to use the Plan, Do, Review methodology that has been developed by the YPR team.
Our other priority was to make the course as hands-on as possible. So naturally that suggested that our Course Crews use the Plan, Do, Review structure to “run” an activity for the weekend. Once we locked in the theme, we returned to the session plan. Thanks to the idea that the participants would be using Plan, Do, Review to organise a mock activity, the course structure basically wrote itself.
Which was really convenient because by this time, we were ready for lunch.
After lunch, we dived into the Advanced Practical course. We took longer to figure out our approach to this course, but we eventually struck upon the idea of a Crew Exec planning weekend for a Crew that wasn’t exactly in the best of shape. Luckily they would have all the support they would need to get things back on track.
Looking at the sessions that needed to be included, and the other things that we wanted to add in, we put some sessions together, and pulled some apart. But by 4pm, we had both courses plotted out.
We came back the next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. After a quick review of Saturday’s work, we split into two groups to tackle writing both courses at the same time. We made great progress over the rest of the day, probably managing to write up about half the session plans we needed to. Progress was, as usual, slower for the leftover sessions though.
Validating the Product
We wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of our State Commissioners for Training over the past few years. They get a copy of all our session notes (once they’re are written up!) so that they can satisfy themselves that we are meeting all the requirements and that we are delivering the content that our clients need. I suppose that we would do the same for the VRC Chair and State Commissioner for Rovers if they weren’t already involved in the creation of the courses.
We also also validate the content through a critical assessment. The first time we run a course, there will be at least one other team member in each session who is responsible for validating the content and ensuring that the fancy ideas that we have come up with actually work in real life and teach what they are supposed to.
The third tool we rely upon to make sure that the courses are up to scratch is the feedback that we get from our participants. Asking the people what they want has led us to make changes from adding new sessions to changing the training calendar the following year — things that we had entirely overlooked, but which make for a better experience for our clients.
It takes a fair bit of work for us to get all our ducks in a row and refresh a training course, but its worth it. The benefits are numerous but include:
- Training provided is specifically tailored to the needs of Victorian Rovers as an organisation, and Victorian Rover Scouts as individuals delivering our program.
- Comprehensive session notes that allow any member of our team to run any session with only hours’ notice.
- All our courses are the same, so the participants get a consistent experience no matter who is running their course.
- Since all courses are the same it is possible, if not desirable, for someone to attend one day of a course and then the second day at another one.
Some of the things that were learnt:
- Google Docs is a fantastic way to work collaboratively on big documents (not so much a learning as a reinforcement)
- Whiteboards are essential to the project.
- Get as much done on the day as you can, but don’t be afraid to pull up stumps once everyone starts hitting the wall.