Digital learning in social care workforce development in Wales
Learning from COVID-19 and shaping future approaches
Published: November 2022
This report sets out the findings of research to understand the impacts, benefits, and challenges of digital learning for the social care workforce in Wales. The research focused on the areas of training managed by the 20 workforce managers working across the 22 local authorities (LAs) in Wales. In addition to an evidence review, we gathered the views and experiences of local authority workforce managers, training providers, social care provider managers, and frontline social care staff over the past two years.
During the COVID pandemic there was an increase in the use of digital learning, to enable frontline social care staff to access training and development. This report sets out the findings of research to understand the impacts, benefits, and challenges of digital learning for the social care workforce in Wales. We identify key learning points and provide recommendations for future approaches to digital learning.
We undertook an evidence review, as well as workshops and interviews with: local authorities’ workforce managers and regional leads; social care providers; training providers; Social Care Wales managers; and frontline workers.
- There were some positive experiences – Local authorities (LAs), training and social care providers played an essential role in the rapid development of digital infrastructure, the provision of equipment to local organisations, and the improvement of digital resources. Some of these initiatives were supported by funding made available by Social Care Wales. Initiatives to develop digital literacy and skills are key in supporting staff, helping to raise confidence, and improve access to digital learning.
- There are clear benefits from digital learning – it can offer learners flexibility, the ability to pace their learning, and opportunities for independent learning. For providers, reduced staff travel and the wider reach of digital learning can make it more cost-effective when provided at scale.
- There are also challenges – efforts at digital learning can be hampered by connectivity issues, limited access to equipment, the quality of some digital resources, as well as limited digital literacy and skills in the workforce are barriers to accessing digital learning. In relation to the delivery of digital learning, people reported it needed to be more interactive as well as support the wellbeing of learners. Relationships and group dynamics can be limited, reducing opportunities for peer learning. When developed locally or at a small scale, there is a high cost for digital learning.
- Participants contributed many useful suggestions for future approaches – people wanted to see a balance between digital and face-to-face sessions, training that is practical and interactive, high-quality resources, and support for independent learning. Suggestions for improving the digital literacy of frontline staff included creating a digital champions programme and drop-in centres. People suggested the creation of an all-Wales learning platform that can host and manage learning with a focus on user experience.
These recommendations are designed to be a first step in guiding future approaches to digital learning in Wales.
Policy and strategic level
- Adopt an All-Wales approach to digital learning – in co-production with Social Care Wales, LAs, training providers, and social care providers including frontline staff.
- Create an all-Wales steering group to oversee the creation of an all-Wales digital learning platform.
- Create an all-Wales ‘one-stop shop’ digital learning platform to curate, host, and signpost to relevant learning resources, with a focus on user experience and inclusion.
- Create digital learning passports, with an overarching system for recording attendance and completion, and providing training updates and alerts.
- Create opportunities for collaboration between LAsLAs – to share learning and strategy views, and to encourage consistency in digital learning across Wales.
- Provide guidance on digital, blended, and face-to-face learning – to provide advice on the most effective/appropriate forms of delivery according to learners’ needs, topic needs, assessment needs, and cost-effectiveness.
- Continue and expand funding support.
- develop digital literacy – digital champions, drop-in support centres, and basic skills training.
- balance digital and face-to-face learning – based on learners’ needs.
- provide learner with supportive learning conditions – protected time, adequate equipment, and basic skills (digital literacy).
- continue and expand the support offered – to training providers and social care providers to develop digital skills and access equipment.
- develop local networks for training providers – to share best practice.
Training providers and social care providers
- Increase the focus on developing learning and development staff skills.
- focus on learners' needs – further adopting interactive and experiential methods.
- encourage learners to apply their learning into practice – using practice learning logs, follow-up contacts, and guidance for managers on how to support staff.
Social care managers and staff
- Managers should support staff in applying learning to practice – discussing real-life examples during supervisions and meetings.
- managers should support staff with pre- and post-training – to access pre-training materials and complete post-learning activities
- staff members should continue to develop their digital literacy and etiquette – actively seeking support and using resources offered by the LA.