The CASA Project: Future CASA Training Program Options Executive Summary

Sponsor   Student Researchers   Goals and Objectives    Executive Summary         Final Report

Introduction/Background

The goal of this project was to assess the current CASA training program and recommend e-Learning platforms to The CASA Project. The project’s primary objectives were:

  1. To Analyze Current CASA Organization Training Programs.
  2. To Analyze e-Learning platforms.

In this chapter the group discusses the methods used to gain data to provide the sponsor with the following deliverables:

  • An assessment report including an analysis of the current CASA training program
  • Recommendation of e-Learning platforms

The CASA Project is an organization that helps abused and neglected children in foster care. The CASA Project has grown over the years, but needs more volunteers to ultimately provide every child in foster care with an advocate. e-Learning platforms are a possible way to make the training more accessible for potential volunteers. These platforms have features and specifications that can benefit The CASA Project, but at the cost of the social interaction that the current in-person training provides. In the past, The CASA Project attempted to recruit more volunteers by implementing the National CASA’s Flex Training. In a second attempt they offered weekend sessions to their training program. Both of these attempts were unsuccessful in recruiting more volunteers.

Methodology

The team conducted observations by attending part of the training session. Afterward, we gave questionnaires to the trainees. The questionnaires were analyzed alongside evaluations that The CASA Project presents to trainees at the conclusion of the training. Finally, we interviewed members of The CASA Project, as well as experts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the field of online training.

Results & Analysis

From our observations of the current in-person training program, we identified three key invaluable components of the training program: mediated class discussions, guest speakers, and role playing. Instructor feedback furthered the value of the training contents by enabling trainees to openly discuss difficult scenarios in a group setting, while instructors maintained the focus of the conversation. Open ended discussion periods reinforced The CASA Project training course contents by tieing the previously learned materials to real life experiences. The team discovered that this supplemental information provided by guest speakers increased the overall value of the training experience.

From our interviews, questionnaire, and analysis of evaluations we noted six components of the training program that can be improved upon: instructional information, program accessibility, guest speakers, in-class technology and multimedia, program assessments, and role playing. Results from the class evaluations presented the need for additional information on the following topics: report writing, interview strategies, and full case walkthroughs. While the majority of trainees were pleased with the training program, the evaluation results revealed that the program needs to be more accessible. The results from the questionnaires, class evaluations, and interviews presented a demand for the integration of more technology and interactive multimedia (videos, powerpoints, etc.). The team found the necessity to incorporate trainee assessments into the training program, which the current program does not include. Questionnaire, course evaluation, and interview results indicated the role playing interactions were what the trainees found to be the most valuable portion of the program. Data results from the questionnaire exemplified that role playing and face-to-face interactions would be unsuccessful if taught online. The case supervisors believed that a management system could benefit the volunteer training, but some were skeptical on portions of the course material being effectively taught online.

Experts noted obstacles to anticipate during the implementation process and how to avoid or better manage the outcome. Important gaps to consider are implementation misconception, synchronous vs. asynchronous instructional delivery methods, e-Learning software training, online feasibility, and training module content design. Experts provided critical information to produce a decision matrix in order to effectively compare the various e-Learning platforms. Important e-Learning platform features include: discussion boards, assessments & grading, user interface, Whitewashing, Live streaming, SCORM compliance, Scalability, etc. Alternatives to Learning Management Systems that could be implemented to fulfill The CASA Project’s short term, and potentially long term needs include: Google Classroom, WordPress, and Canvas Free For Teachers.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Based on this project, the team made recommendations in the following areas: Current training program, moving the training program online and future works.

For the current training program we recommend that: the role playing component of the training remain in-person; in-class technology and multimedia be upgraded to provide trainees with a better experience; the training program be more accessible to prospective volunteers by increasing the number of available sessions and having the sessions more frequently; more time be allocated to report writing, interview strategies and full case walkthroughs; more guest speakers be integrated into the program because they provide invaluable experience and knowledge to trainees; The CASA Project implement assessments as a way to evaluate if volunteers are field ready.

For moving the training online we recommend that: The CASA Project hire an instructional designer to translate the material online; supplemental materials on role playing, group discussions/interactions and question and answer sessions be implemented online; The CASA Project use WordPress, a free management system to host their online training.

For future work we recommend that: The CASA Project request grant money and funding to allow for a more advanced e-Learning platform to be implemented ; the implementation of the e-Learning platform is done slowly over time;  The CASA Project request another project team to assist in designing and implementing the online course materials.

The CASA Project is a growing nonprofit organization and is in the process of overhauling their training program. Over the next 3-5 years they plan to double their volunteer base. With our recommendations, The CASA Project has the potential to reach their goal. This increase will bring them closer to achieving their mission of being a voice to every abused and neglected child in the Worcester county area.