As a learning and development pro, you’ll know how important it is to keep learning. And as a human, you may well want to give something back to the community.

Voluntary learning design work is the obvious way to do both of those – but it’s tricky to find such a niche project in New Zealand. After all, small organisations often don’t have the capacity to plan learning projects, and larger organisations may have complex learning needs that a volunteer can’t take on.

Our learning designer Adriana wasn’t put off by these challenges. In fact, she’s thrived on them, working with Howick Softball Club to develop online training that’s now being rolled out across the country. As well as pitching the project straight to the club, she’s scored Complete Learning Solutions some promotion along the way.

Spotting the L&D need

‘Softball clubs in New Zealand rely on parent volunteers to score junior games,’ Adriana explains. ‘My son was playing softball and the club advertised a scoring clinic that I couldn’t attend in the evenings. I thought other parents who wanted to contribute to the club by learning to score might be in the same predicament.’

Adriana proposed an online module focusing on softball scoring basics. New volunteers would be able to access it in their own time, and existing volunteers could use it as a refresher. Either way, the club would benefit from more scorers and the young players would enjoy their parents being more involved in the game.

‘I approached the club and proposed that Complete Learning Solutions provide pro bono services to design and develop a blended e-learning solution,’ Adriana says. ‘In exchange, we were featured as a sponsor on their website and through media outlets.’

High-level sports club e-learning design

Once they could see the benefits – more volunteers, more expertise and more family involvement – club officials were keen to get started.

The project had to be managed carefully as there were stakeholders from Softball New Zealand as well as the Howick Softball Club involved. It was also a first for the club, who were used to doing face-to-face training.

To ease the transition, Adriana created a high-level design document that outlined the current state and her proposed solution: a modular e-learning course including a job aid, videos for practice scoring exercises followed up by a face-to-face session.

Hands-on e-learning

Adriana fitted the project around her day job as a learning designer. As with most projects, there were some learning points along the way.

‘Since the e-learning was media-rich, it was tricky to keep the scorm file as small as possible so it would not slow down when loading,’ she recalls. ‘I used a site called Handbrake to apply compression to the MP4 files. Also, since there were hundreds of media assets it was important to use naming conventions to keep them organised.’

The course – Softball Scoring Fundamentals – was then piloted with the club. There were more learning opportunities at this point. ‘The course includes videos that allow learners to view a real play, then practise scoring,’ Adriana says. ‘Before the pilot, they were structured in a linear path.’

However, feedback from the pilot helped Adriana realise that the course would be more engaging if it was more flexible, so she redesigned it so that learners could choose which parts to access when.

Partnership work

The course went live nationwide last year, and the next step was to make sure people could make the most of it. Adriana worked with Softball New Zealand and Howick Softball Club to come up with a distribution model, with profits being split three ways. ‘There are 100-plus softball clubs and 23 associations across New Zealand,’ she explains. ‘In the first year, clubs and associations were offered a group licence. In the second year, this has been extended so that people can buy a licence directly.’

Like most volunteer projects, this was a labour of love for Adriana, who enjoyed getting involved with a community organisation at grassroots level. However, it has also been a personal development project, as it allowed her to use her experience to solve a problem – something all learning designers aim to do.

Next steps

This isn’t the end of the project, as Adriana has more plans for it. ‘It would be great to modify the course so that it could be marketed in other countries,’ she suggests. ‘Or it could be expanded to cover softball umpiring or other sports.’

If you’re involved in community sport, why not drop Adriana a line to find out more about the full training package? Or contact us if you’re keen to get involved in a similar project so we can share more top tips. If you’re feeling inspired by Adriana’s work, take a look at her intro video to kick-start some ideas for your own learning design project.