AS032 Suicide Awareness Online

Background

In 2010 GippsTAFE designed and delivered a highly successful e-learning solution for Victoria Police in dealing with at-risk members of the community with mental health related issues. The model has proven to be highly motivating and cost-effective, offering convenience and flexibility for staff dispersed over wide areas.

This project adapted the program to make it available to other agencies, including delivery to staff working in varied community services related roles. The core of the model of scenario-based self-paced units, supported by facilitated online problem-solving sessions was extended by reworking the police response models, contextualising scenarios to the wider community In addition to the skills related to the content individual participant where able to be exposed to e-learning which has in turn allowed them to expose their employers to the possibilities of e-learning.

The initiative addressed a high-priority, high-visibility training need in the community, is well suited to e-learning.

Project Summary

How will the project improve learner access to improve employment outcomes?

The Victorian Regional Skills and Labour Needs Survey 2009 highlighted that Community Services was the second most difficult recruitment area within regional Victoria. There is a shortage of individuals with specialised skills to work with individuals with mental health concerns. Within Gippsland (according to the same report) only 67% of individuals employed within these sectors have suitable qualifications. Many of professions included within this area would benefit from obtaining training in the area of Suicide Awareness.

In addition to the above there are a number of community organisations such as Community Information and Support Victoria (CISVic) who engage in both paid and unpaid individuals to carry out services for the benefit of the community. These individuals are required to undertake training which enables them to work effectively with the community. Again suicide awareness is a key part of this training.

Currently there is limited, if any, accredited training within the suicide awareness space and where this training does exist is only available in a face-to-face manner usually within metro areas. This project would allow individuals to access this training in a solely online manner from anywhere.

There are some obvious industries which would benefit from this training; however there are many more individuals who would increase their employability if they were to undertake this training. These professions would include, education, support workers within the community services sector, aged care, youth workers, mental health nurses, human resources services and other professions which have a need to interact with the community.

How does this project align to the jurisdictional and national priorities?

Community service staff and educators are increasingly faced with challenging situations involving potential suicide or mental health related issues. While not usually professionally trained for these situations, there are public expectations that they will be able to respond “professionally”, with appropriate duty of care outcomes. In addition it is fair to say that many individuals working in these areas are often unclear about expectations their employer have of them in terms of providing this type of critical care. Moreover many employers are equally as confused and concerned about how they are expected to provide the appropriate training to their staff.

The Commonwealth of Australian Governments (COAG) has repeatedly reported on the need to increase access to the mental health training for health and community services professionals. This is clearly demonstrated in the “National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006 – 2011” published by COAG in July 2006. This project provides a training solution which is directly in line with this report.

Consultation with stakeholders

GippsTAFE has consulted with the following organisations:-

  • Community Information and Support Victoria – partner in the project

  • The Department of Education

  • Victoria Police

  • The Department of Human Services

Intended outcomes from your project

For the partners

  • improved consistency of service through shared response model and methods

  • greater accountability in a sensitive area of growing community need and expectation

  • savings by adapting and customising the existing program

  • training efficiencies through flexible delivery to regions and reduced residential costs

  • security from working with a proven delivery model and leading e-learning provider

  • improved just-in-time training capability and ongoing workplace learning approaches

  • opportunity for engaging and motivating staff in a new form of training

  • building capability to manage and deliver e-learning and embed it in the training culture

  • trialling an innovative delivery model which can be re-used for other training purposes.


For the staff participants (learners):

  • improved performance and confidence in dealing with problematic situations

  • increased motivation and engagement in training

  • recognition as first participants and leaders in an innovative approach to training

  • improved skills in using learning and communication technologies, to be able to mentor others in the next stage

  • re-usable resources: models, scenarios and procedures for ongoing workplace discussion of community situations.


For GippsTAFE:


  • leverage previous project to develop new products for/with new clients to meet other training needs

  • build regional client base and their exposure to effective e-learning

  • adapt and extend successful and re-usable delivery model

  • build reputation for innovative workplace e-learning delivery

Actual Outcomes resulting from this project

What was done?

Our Project Team met monthly and consisted of team members from the following areas;

# Project Manager

# Project Team Designers

# Project Team Administrator

# Project Team Writer

# Program Facilitator and Subject Matter Expert

Key Stages:

Course Review Summary:

The development team in conjunction with the content expert reviewed the course to contextualise it to suit our more general learner needs. Case Studies and scenarios were re-written and more general content was re-contextualised to meet the needs of the new learners. The program was split into 3 topics to be delivered over 3 weeks. One topic was discussed each week.

Course Model Review:

Our course facilitator in conjunction with an experienced online teacher reviewed the delivery model to ensure the model suited our new learner cohort. Template emails were created to send out to the students during pre-week to ensure the students were fully prepared for the technology of the online environment and had the opportunity to log in and familiarise themselves with the learning management systems.

The facilitated online classroom sessions were planned in detail to ensure the time spent maximised the learners time spent together. The sessions were developed to ensure they were as interactive as possible with the facilitator and as a group.

Once the reviews and recommendations were complete, the course was customised to meet the new learner cohorts and industry sectors.

Marketing Strategy:

A flier was created that was suitable to all target areas. It was quite challenging to ensure that the flier effectively marketed the program and was not misinterpreted. The topic of Suicide is very confronting so the marketing of the program needed to be sensitive to ensure the enquiries were relevant to the actual program.

The flier was circulated around a number of organisations within the Community Services Sector and the Education Sector including our own Institute. We were very pleased with the uptake of learners for our first pilot group.

We also met with our partners to outline the online program to ensure everyone was clear in their understanding of the delivery model, as well as who is most suitable for the program. This one-to-one strategy was critical to ensure we targeted the right cohort and that we continued to keep our partners up-to-date as well as ensuring we were still meeting their needs in terms of an online solution.

Pilot Program:

Our pilot program was delivered solely online over a three week period plus a pre-week prior to the beginning of the course.

Pre-week – Pre-week was designed to introduce the learners to the technology and the facilitator. On the Monday, a welcome email was sent to the group. Within the email there was general information however the facilitator asked the learner to “reply” to the email. The purpose of this was so the facilitator could break the ice with each learner in a private non-threatening nature.

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Week 1 Topic – Understanding Suicide

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Week 2 Topic – Responding to Suicide

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Week 3 Topic – Suicide Intervention

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Each week was delivered in the same facilitation model. The course content was released at the beginning of the week with an email sent out to the program participants. The email also reminded them of the “online class” scheduled for later during the week.

The course content was available at any stage for the learner to log in. We chose to use the TAFE Virtual Campus to house our content. The online classes were held in Blackboard Collaborate in a synchronous online environment.

The synchronous sessions provided the facilitator with the opportunity to “flesh out” some of the more complex areas of the week’s content. The 1 ½ hour sessions were designed to be interactive with the learners giving them the opportunity to query/question/clarify/problem solve the week’s topic.

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Evaluation:

All learners were given the opportunity to evaluate the program. In summary the results were extremely pleasing. At the end of the program, we asked the learners for some “key” points in summary, some were:

“it was so convenient for me”

“the facilitator was motivating and passionate about the content”

“flexible”

“loved logging in from home…”

“This style of training allowed some of us who may not contribute as openly in a group that’s physically present, to participate more easily”


“To study online is a perfect component of the work/life balance”

Benefits experienced by

Lead agent

The opportunity to customise an online learning solution to cater for a broader market was the key for GippsTAFE in this project. We have the capability to provide e-learning solutions to different clients so in conjunction with the funding we were able to develop this online program. The program model could easily be adapted to many other programs to allow them to be delivered in a solely online manner.

Quote: “We pride ourselves on our facilitated online model of delivery here at GippsTAFE. To be given the opportunity to customise an existing course to deliver to a new cohort that can reach across the borders is a real opportunity to expand the delivery and opportunities for learners.”

Partner(s)

The opportunity to provide more learners with access to training in a cost effective way was the key to being involved in this project.

Quote: “Many of our members are from regional areas across Victoria so to offer a traditional face-to-face program is limited because of the low numbers in the different regions. This training brought the course to their door and increased training access across all of our members”

Learners

The learners loved the delivery style, very flexible and easy to manage within their busy workloads. A number of learners worked full-time, were studying outside of this program and were also busy managing their family commitments. The flexibility of the program played a key role in the enrolment.

Quote No. 1: “The flexibility was what attracted me to the course, I work full-time and have a hectic social life so for me to be able to login and access when it suited me was ideal. Getting to the online session at 7:30pm was a challenge but once I got there, I could settle in to the session.”

Quote No. 2: “I found it really informative. I participated in the course for personal reasons and the information has made me far more aware of the warning signs and how to engage with someone at risk.”

Reflections and Suggestions

‍The need for a back-up plan for a facilitator and technical support in the synchronous sessions was an important lesson we learnt. They were such an integral part of the program; we needed to ensure that the session was delivered without any disruptions or delays.

Use of teaching and learning pedagogy was critical to the success of the program. The support of the development team in their knowledge of good teaching practices enabled the content and delivery to embed the practices into the program.

Sustainability of project outcomes

GippsTAFE is committed to continuing to advertise and deliver the online program. We have already begun advertising for two more programs to be delivered in 2012.

The Innovation Department is a regular networker in the e-learning community so will use this program as one of the opportunities to share ideas and models of delivery to other organisations. Already, we have been sharing the knowledge across another Victorian TAFE, and 2 other TAFE’s outside of Victoria. ConVerge is another opportunity to share our learning later in the year.

Acknowledgement

This is an Access to Skills project output, developed by Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE (GippsTAFE) with seed funding from the National VET e-learning strategy.

For more information on GippsTAFE, please contact:

Vanessa Marsh Team Leader – International & e-learning Business Development

(03) 5622 8541 OR 0407 057 583

VanessaM@gippstafe.edu.au


For more information on the Access to Skills program:

Phone: (08) 9229 5200

Email: accesstoskills@dtwd.wa.gov.au

Website: www.flexiblelearning.net.au