Finding and Using Great Online Multimedia Content for Staff Development and Nonprofit Customer Services
Finding high quality multimedia content online can be a bit of a chore. Few of us have time to plow through YouTube or Google Video looking for the best resources. Fortunately, others are doing that for us.
- Via Open Culture, here's a pre-screened list of the best online documentaries. Depending on your organization's mission, some may be good resources to use with clients (such as in the health and lifestyle/society sections). Others may work as staff development resources.
- Another resource (via Beth Kanter and CoolCat Teacher, Vicki Davis) is Teacher Tube, a YouTube-like site specifically designed for instructional videos. While relatively new, this looks like it could be a good source as it continues to build. Again, depending on your organization's clients, some videos may be appropriate to use with customers (i.e. for basic literacy or GED preparation), while others may be great as staff development resources, such as Making Large Posters with Excel or Beth's Screencasting Primer, which is now available on the site.
- Also from Open Culture, here's a list of hundreds of podcasts on a variety of topics, including technology, news and information, foreign language lessons and financial aid. Be sure to scroll through the comment areas in each of these sections where readers have suggested additional resources.
- Yahoo has a nice list of educational podcast and video resources, as well as a list of business resources.
- Escape from Cubicle Nation is devoted to helping people start their own businesses, but blogger Pamela Slim's podcasts can also be applied to nonprofit settings, such as this one on cutting through work paralysis and this one on using the phone for networking.
So now that you have the media, what do you do with it?
In my experience, just having a list of potential links doesn't work well for either staff development or providing resources to clients. They need some kind of structure for accessing the content and "chunking" it into learning. Probably the easiest way to accomplish this would be with a wiki, which would allow you to create large or small content portals for exploring the multimedia resources you're pointing to. This has the added advantage of allowing you to also include links to blogs, online articles, and other resources, in addition to the multimedia. A few examples off the top of my head. . .
- Create a "Technology Portal" that includes links to "How-to" videos on using various types of technology, related articles, blog posts, etc. If you go this route, I would also suggest including some of the mini lesson ideas that I mentioned last week. This adds another layer of learning to your portal.
- How about a "Leadership" or "Management" Portal? There are a lot of podcasts devoted to business management issues. There are also a lot of great blog posts and online articles related to leadership. You could select a series of leadership themes or topical areas and chunk online content for staff to use to explore those concepts. If you wanted to deepen the learning process, you could also have staff create their own blogs to respond to and interact with the learning or staff could use the "Discussion" tab of the wiki for this purpose.
- Another thought is the "Be the Best Worker You Can Be" portal. Here I would envision resources related to things like time and organizational management, life-long learning, technology and the specific skills necessary for your nonprofit employees to do their jobs (such as case management skills or working with donors).
The portals you might put together for clients will obviously depend on the organization's mission. As I've mentioned before, I work primarily with human services agencies, so I tend to think about resources that support individuals living in poverty. Obviously your organization's clients may have different kinds of needs.
- Supporting literacy is a big need for many nonprofit clients. For some, it's about developing reading, writing and math skills. For others it's about preparing for the GED. And for still others, it's a need for ESL supports. Podcasts and videos lend themselves extremely well to supporting literacy, primarily because these individuals will need to have not only written resources for reference, but also audio-visual supports. An online literacy portal might include podcasts on learning English, video and audio recordings related to reading and math instruction, and lessons to prepare for GED testing.
- I do a lot of work with employment and training and programs for disadvantaged youth. Applying to colleges and obtaining financial aid are part of this process for many clients, so a portal devoted to these issues could be of real value. The financial aid podcasts referenced above would be a good start. There are also a ton of other resources that could be chunked with this content (email me if you're interested).
- A portal focused on health issues is another potential option. This makes sense both for nonprofits that focus on specific health areas (such as STD prevention, teen pregnancy, diabetes, cancer, etc.), as well as for nonprofits who work with a client base who has to deal with specific health issues (such as addiction or mental health).
Frankly, the possibilities here are endless. Given that you can create a wiki for free (I've had good experiences with Wikispaces, PBWiki and Wetpaint) and the video and audio content I've mentioned is also free, the only investment required here would be the time to pull the information together. Yes, this could be a fairly significant up-front investment, but it also has the potential for big payoffs in terms of both staff development and providing high quality services to clients.