E-learning and online forums provide an affordable and easy way to undertake continuing professional development, but they can also help social workers to connect with colleagues and other agencies. Here, Claudia Megele gives advice to practitioners and managers on making the most of the resources available.
● Tap into internal resources
Start off by asking any tech-savvy members of the team to share their expertise and pull together a list of e-learning tools they have used. This maximises resources while minimising costs, but, perhaps more importantly, recognising practitioners’ knowledge and experience boosts morale and enhances their sense of professional identity.
● Share learning using online forums
It is important to tap into the knowledge of more experienced social workers. However, given the increasing demand on practitioners’ time and resources, it is not always possible to squeeze in detailed discussions. Online discussion forums enable practitioners to share their experiences, discuss practice issues, give and receive advice and address some of their anxieties and emotional toil – all in their own time and at their own pace. Find out whether you have access to a forum through your employer, or if one could be set up. You could also use Community Care’s online forum CareSpace to ask for advice – just remember it is a public forum and be responsible about what you post.
● Include other professionals
Again, find out whether you could organise or join an online forum involving other professionals, and perhaps service users too. You could view it as a virtual study group, where you periodically examine a documented case and compare different perspectives. Or it could simply be a platform through which to reflect on a particular topic. Exchanging ideas and information in informal discussions between professionals with diverse viewpoints fosters understanding and appreciation for their roles and enhances inter-agency working.
● Deliver CPD through e-learning
Use e-learning and online forums to access or deliver flexible and outcomes-based contintuing professional development (CPD). Workforce development bodies like the Social Care Institute for Excellence offer free e-learning modules on topics such as law and communication skills. Social workers should be prepared to show how these modules have affected their practice, particularly in England where there are advanced plans to measure CPD according to outcomes rather than the number of hours or days of CPD completed. The College of Social Work is developing an online CPD tool so that social workers can plan, record and reflect on their learning activities and career aspirations.
Claudia Megele is a qualified social worker and service director of A Sense Of Self.
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