The digital divide is the gap between those with access and to use the new technologies and those without. It is something that needs the attention of any volunteer manager contemplating the use of Web sites to recruit volunteers or provide support once a volunteer is placed. Check the size of the divide for volunteers in your program.
Washington State University and North Texas University have online programs to train those who work with volunteers. There are doubtless other programs, as well. Have you considered starting an online distance learning program? Take this short quiz and you will have some idea if computer learning is for you.
|1. Having face-to-face contact with teachers and other learners is:||a. Not particularly
b. Somewhat important to me
c. Very important to me
|2. When it comes to assessing my own progress, I:||a. I can
keep tabs on my progress, without immediate teacher input
b. I like regular feedback from an instructor, but don't mind if it doesn't come right away
c. I need feedback on my work immediately and often
|3. My primary means of learning things is:||a. auditory:
like to listen to explanations and discussions
b. visual: like to read material and see graphics
c. kinesthetic: learn best by doing (like a lab experiment)
If you are planning a distance learning adventure be sure to check out if what is available is going to meet your learning styles. The drop out rate for distance learning programs is close to 80% in the US. It is important that you think about what you need as a learner before signing up.
As a cautionary note, volunteers can take the test above, should your organization decide to take all its training online. Distance learning is not suitable for all learners. (See the next article)
Some pundits believe that individuals past age 35 will never be e-learners. The reasoning is that our brains are wired for face-to-face contact in a classroom, with books and manuals, and coffee or tea after class with hearty discussion about life and values. The e-generation, mostly in their twenties and younger, were born with the Internet as an expected resource. They are not newspaper or magazine readers, but rather, attend movies, and use the Internet for everything from getting the latest news, to purchasing clothes, to playing games. They send electronic post cards and greetings to friends and family. The preference is to learn informally over the Internet from friends at home and from far away.
The activities of this generation will drive training in the future and must be considered when training young people to volunteer positions. The current state of online learning is like a "workshop or class in a box" It is structured, formalized, and looks amazingly like the classes of high school and college in days gone by. An expert like Kevin Wheeler of Global Learning Resources predicts how e-learning might look in the future:
The challenge for those of us in training is not the hardware or software, but the capacity to translate what we teach into these new formats. Who better to help do this than young people in a community? "Sweat equity" in the form of physical types of jobs for youth is not the only alternatives. Bringing in the "nerd" crowd to help redesign training is a way to move the organization to being more attractive to all types of volunteers.
"E-learning for the e-Generation," Kevin Wheeler, e-learning, October 2000, Vol. 1, No. 5, pg. 48
Susan Ellis and Steve McCurley have launched an online journal on volunteerism. This ambitious project provides readings with cutting edge information and commentary on a variety of aspects of volunteerism. Some of the best minds are writing for this new journal, including an excellent sampling from outside the US. The October issue included articles on screening volunteers and staff by Linda Graff, using icebreakers in training by Betty Stallings, and research on volunteering in England by Steve Howlett. Jane Justis writes a thought provoking article on volunteerism and raising money. Most of the articles are interactive. Throughout the text there are places to register your comments and read those of other readers.
Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.
Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home.
For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web site.
The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange. NAAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities.
Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership. An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project.
For more information contact Glenis Chapin, who is a member of the Executive Committee. She can be reached by phone at 503-588-7990. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.