National CASA develops trainings and curriculum materials that are engaging, relevant, timely and—ultimately—equip CASA volunteers to provide high-quality, culturally sensitive advocacy to abused and neglected children.

Online Volunteer Training Expands Audience, Builds Connections

A new "flexible learning" volunteer training curriculum that was developed to expand the pool of potential CASA volunteers at programs throughout the country has done that—and more.

Piloted in 2011 and made available to CASA programs beginning in May 2012, the National CASA Flex-Learning Volunteer Training Curriculum combines online and in-person trainings. While a primary goal of the effort was to accommodate potential volunteers with complicated or non-traditional schedules—busy commuters, college students, food-service employees and others—programs offering flex-learning have discovered additional benefits.

"Because class sizes are limited to 15 people, and the curriculum is highly interactive, we learn more about the volunteers," says RoseMary Jaramillo, the volunteer manager with CASA of the Pikes Peak Region (CO). "Knowing their personalities allows us to assign cases that are appropriate to them. Ultimately that means greater success for the volunteers—and the children they are working with."

CASA of the Pikes Peak Region was among the first to offer the flex-learning curriculum during the pilot phase. By the end of 2012, 70 of 933 CASA/GAL programs were on board.

Flex-learning offers the same topics as the traditional in-person volunteer training curriculum provided by National CASA. It combines 15 hours of online skills training with 15 hours of class work using case studies. The training was developed by the National CASA Curriculum Advisory Committee, a team of staff members from various local and state CASA programs. The work was funded and led by National CASA. Training director Anthony Petrarca works closely with programs as they prepare to offer the training and provides ongoing technical assistance.

Throughout the pilot program and initial roll-out, National CASA worked with participating programs to assess the effectiveness of the new curriculum and inform future enhancements. The vast majority of participating staff and volunteers gave a big "thumbs-up" to the new training program. Well over 90 percent of volunteers completing the training said they were engaged by the training and felt prepared to take their first case.

Pikes Peak Region volunteer Greg Welch, senior vice president of commercial lending for a Colorado Springs bank, cannot say enough good things about his flex-learning experience.

"I honestly felt that I was prepared and ready to go when I finished the training. I was eager to take my first case. And I felt like I had formed friendships with classmates who I can reach out to for advice on cases in the future. The interactive online format really fueled those relationships."

Going forward, National CASA plans to expand offering of the flex-learning model. That will include increasing capacity in "Moodle Rooms," our online learning management system, as well as offering additional trainings to CASA program staff interested in implementing the flex-learning curriculum.