Face-to-Face Training or E-Learning – The Pros and Cons for Care Homes

As a care home manager, it’s a vital part of your role to identify the training needs of your staff and ensure that they complete their training on time.

The types of training you can arrange for them probably vary to the same extent as the staff do! It’s never a case of one-size-fits-all and everyone has different learning styles and a range of needs. For many mainstream topics, you will want face-to-face sessions with a trainer. Nothing beats being able to ask questions to an expert who is in the room and right in front of you. Face-to-face training can also provide an opportunity for your staff team to come together and discuss the topic freely. Plus, face-to-face training is less reliant on technology—with the exception of the projector failing, possibly!

But nothing’s ever straightforward, is it?

What about those times when one of your staff members falls sick and doesn’t make the training day? And what if those covering for the staff who are doing the training let you down? You can be left having to pull someone out of the training in order to have enough staff on the floor to maintain the correct ratio of staff to residents.

It’s for reasons like this that the actual attendance level at face-to-face sessions in care homes can diminish the worth of this method. If not enough people are able to turn up. The cost of the session tends to remain the same and the price per head can shoot up. Care home managers face a “Catch 22” situation. They want to provide training that adds value, but their hands are tied when it comes to paying additional hours for people to attend. Care staff are already working many hours. They are reluctant to attend the home for training on their days off. And homes don’t have a giant pool of staff that they can draw on, who can cover shifts while others attend training sessions.

So, while face-to-face training is generally recognised as the most effective learning method…

…and its benefits are clear, the clever manager may find the training budget goes further by spreading it between live teaching sessions and other options. Many care homes embarking on this strategy have found that online learning resources can be an efficient and cost-effective way of delivering training. Such methods may not suit all learners, who will need to be self-driven in the absence of being able to gain “on-the-spot” clarification from an expert. And there can be problems with poor internet and limited access to equipment, reducing the effectiveness of the training. Such difficulties pose a particular issue with video-based learning, which can be very slow to load without adequate internet bandwidth.

Despite these potential drawbacks, online learning options are worth considering. They have many advantages that together stack up, providing care homes with a viable alternative to traditional face-to-face training. Top of the list of advantages is the realisation that online training is highly flexible—the person can engage with the resource at a time and place that they choose. Care home shifts are busy, of course they are—but quiet periods do exist, and staff can utilise this time to do their online learning.

The investment in hardware required may also be less than you think

Many websites display very well on tablet devices, for example. Many care providers have already invested in tablet technology to aid care delivery, and are using tablets for care planning and recording observations. Devices that are used to note down observations in the mornings can be utilised for online learning activities in the afternoons.

The quality of the content in your online resource is paramount. Many staff find video resources frustrating when modules are repetitious and long-winded, making them irritating to watch. But there are alternative options which are well worth exploring. It’s important to consider the quality of the content and the extent to which the resource engages the learner. Can the learner track their progress? Can you, the manager, also keep an eye on what training they have completed when? Does the system allow you to identify anyone who is struggling with their training? To what extent does the learning management system help you when it comes to providing the Care Quality Commission inspectors with the data they need when your all-important inspection comes around?

Some of the best online resources come with highly flexible assessments that you can edit to suit your own needs. For example, you might want to test staff on a particular point following a recent incident. Others provide useful materials, such as pdfs, worksheets and checklists, that allow you to conduct your own face-to-face training sessions. This approach can be particularly helpful for staff who need just a bit of extra help from you because they struggle with reading or are not fully fluent in English.

At the end of the day, whichever method you select, you will need to ensure that staff have the infrastructure they need to take the best advantage of it—whether that means additional pay, time off their regular work, or access to hardware such as laptops or tablet devices. It may be that a blended approach, combining both face-to-face training and online training, will provide staff with the most impactful learning opportunities.

Good luck with finding the best training solution that works for you and your home!