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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer manager's training level.

Do Seniors Want to Learn New Things?

Learning ImageOlder people need a variety of learning options according to the British Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The good news is they are willing learners. Many of those interviewed for the research reported that learning stimulated intellect and provided pleasure. They credit learning with helping them cope with change and believe that learning has a therapeutic value to their physical health.

The study showed that while learning programs have been traditionally aimed at younger learners, the benefits and desire for learning does not diminish with age. The older learners were drawn to more informal and interactive forms of learning such as conversations, reading, and even watching programs on television. Those engaged in more formal, classroom types of learning often had higher educational levels.

Case Studies: An Effective Training Tool

Case studies are often thought of as deadly dull, long, and too cumbersome for volunteer training. Read on and you might change your mind.

Puts burden of thinking on the learner Does not provide actual REAL experience
Arouses interest by not being passive Cannot actually carry out decisions
Is real or close to real Can over-emphasize the making of decisions
Is specific Works best with skilled discussion leader
Places individuals in-group interactive learning Is a different learning style and can create anxiety in learner
Creates an environment where people learn that other people look at situations differently Is slow
Allows for strong give and take discussions Is not appropriate for training all types of volunteer positions
Provides the environment where people experience the complexity of problems Those who like to talk can monopolize the group
Aids in independent thinking Can be wasteful if not organized well
Provides experience for performing certain types of tasks  
Increases communication skills
Allows learners to “practice” in a safe environment
Can reduce fixed attitudes


Types of Case Methods
The “Harvard” Case A comprehensive example is drawn from a real situation and is very well researched. Requires lengthy preparation before cases are discussed
The Short Case A short version of a situation with fewer facts and less need for a skilled group leader to process the discussion.
The Incident Process Developed as a reaction to the Harvard version of cases the “incident” is a short account of an incident, which can be read and digested quickly. It usually involves having to make a quick decision.
The Multiple Case Process Instead of one case, there are several cases on the same problem area. This allows participants to compare critical events under different circumstances.
The Live Case This involves bringing actual participants in a situation into the classroom to present the problem and discuss possible solutions. A variation on the live case is to videotape or audiotape the stakeholders in the case and present to the class.

Cases are an excellent technique to train volunteers for a variety of different tasks. The Short Case method is most likely the best for most types of training. A hospital volunteer who greets the public is in training. Provide several cases or scenarios, taken from real events, on the behavior of those visiting the hospital. The group then discusses how to handle each situation. Following group discussion, the trainer debriefs the activity by having each group explain how they would handle each of the cases. This provides for lively conversation, allows the trainer to remind people of hospital policies, and when it is necessary, to call for help from a more experienced volunteer or staff member.

The Live Case could be used in training people who volunteer to work at an animal shelter. No better way to learn about a volunteers abilities with animals then handing them a leash and asking them to perform the skill being taught. That is a Live Case.

Next time you plan training, consider the value of cases to the learners and the learning process.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for An Introduction to Helping Adults Learn and Change, authored by Russell D. Robinson. Recruiting & Retention book Image Helping Adults Learn Book

Interested in assessing volunteer and staff relations in your program?

Looking for help from an expert?

Get help with one of the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series.


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/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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