How Digital Can Take a Learning Program to the Next Level: Makeshift Case Study

People often assume digital is less effective than face-to-face learning, but the digital experience can significantly enhance a learning program.

Training Magazine

When the Australian education and support agency, MakeShift, needed to pivot an essential program for people experiencing mental health issues to digital as a result of the pandemic, they knew that it was necessary to be handled sensitively and thoughtfully. Learning providers The ID Crowd and partner Lever – Transfer of Learning was up to the task.

The learning program recently won two Gold Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards in Best Unique or Innovative Learning and Development Program and Best Use of Social/Collaborative Learning.

The first program of its kind in Australia, ReMind: Creativity on Prescription, is an evidence-based, return-to-life program exploring a series of creative practices and how they can support, maintain and assist with mental health recovery and wellbeing. The program gives people with PTSD, depression or anxiety diagnoses the tools to shift out of heightened anxiety, numbness, vigilance, or other symptoms and use creative practices as a means of self-care. Many participants are first responders such as police or paramedics.

Along with a range of cognitive-behavioral therapy tools, ReMind works with participants to understand how mental health experiences show up for them and which practices specifically offset those experiences. By cultivating a habit of those practices, participants develop mindful self-care behaviors and a greater capacity to know and understand what they need to do each day to support their mental health recovery.

The challenge: The pandemic forces a pivot to digital

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the ReMind program was delivered exclusively face-to-face. Suddenly, that was no longer possible. The team needed to quickly pivot to provide the program virtually without sacrificing what makes the program so successful.

MakeShift knew they needed to develop a robust digital learning solution, but they didn’t know where to start or what they needed. They were acutely aware that if the digital program were frustrating for the participant, it would take away from the value of the experience and further burden vulnerable participants. The experience needed to be as smooth and easy as possible. They turned to our team at The ID Crowd for help.

The solution: Leveraging the power of a chatbot

Simply delivering the content of the program digitally wasn’t an option. We needed to create a digital experience that was as engaging and valuable as the face-to-face experience. The approach could not be content-based, instead, it needed to be centered entirely around the mindset and needs of the learner.

Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve recognized a massive shift in learner expectations when it comes to digital experiences. Learners want digital learning to be rich, meaningful, and human. That’s an expectation we should always aim for, or in fact, exceed. This would be no exception.

We helped pivot the program to digital by designing a learning experience that incorporated how-to videos and live Zoom sessions. Participants also received their creativity kit by post. We knew that there was a more profound need for human interaction that we had to meet.

Thinking outside of the box during the Discovery Phase, we realized a chatbot solution would be an innovative and fitting choice to deliver on the needs we uncovered together. The chatbot would complement the delivery of classes offered via video conferencing, acting as a side-by-side companion to the participant throughout the program to prompt action, answer questions, and update participants.

We reached out to Lever – Transfer of Learning to employ their powerful Coach M conversational intelligence (chatbot) solution. Coach M is a self-coaching tool that supports learners in a structured way to slow down and reflect on their specific learning commitments. Using chatbot technology, Coach M initiates two-way coaching conversations, tailored to the individual.

The goal was to create a completely safe space without judgment for participants to engage. Coach M is an excellent way of keeping participants accountable without sacrificing psychological safety.

Communication with Coach M takes place via SMS. When we studied the learner, we found that SMS was a channel they used often and with high engagement. This meant that they were much more likely to engage.

Coach M is programmed to not need human intervention unless the person requests it or if a risk is identified. The system will flag certain words which may suggest the participant is at stake, alerting the facilitator of the need to intervene. The scripts used are bespoke to the participants, yet based on 20,000 human coaching conversations, and are constantly updated in line with new conversational inputs from participants.

The team at MakeShift would never have guessed a chatbot solution would be the right solution and, prior to our Discovery Phase, would have been much more dubious about whether a chatbot could offer meaningful experiences. They quickly realized that Coach M was the ideal intervention to keep people on track and form new habits. Now, MakeShift is planning on retaining Coach M as an integral part of the program, even once they return to delivering the program face-to-face.

One of the benefits of Coach M is its ability to capture detailed data on participants while keeping that information private and secure. This is extremely helpful when supporting individual participants and informing program delivery going forward.

Coach M was combined with the how-to videos and collaborative Zoom workshops to deliver a holistic and seamless experience online.

Results and takeaways: Digital enhances engagement and improves access

Often people assume digital is a poor cousin to face-to-face learning, but this example proved that the digital experience could significantly enhance a learning program. Transitioning to digital has improved the program and enabled MakeShift to reach more people in need.

When the program was delivered face-to-face, participants often forgot to bring their workbooks home to complete their reflective exercises. Using Coach M, MakeShift shifted that thoughtful piece to the individual’s own mobile device, significantly improving engagement with this process.

Other participants found meeting online a less daunting prospect than meeting in person which meant they were more likely to participate and connect with others in similar circumstances.

Participants who had previously been harder to reach geographically for a face-to-face experience we’re now able to participate in the program remotely. MakeShift now has an ongoing digital format to meet the needs of regional participants even after in-person sessions resume, allowing their excellent program to reach even more people in need of support.

Coach M enabled eight weeks of deep and frequent engagement which kept participants on track throughout the entire program, not just on the days of virtual classes. Coach M has been an incredibly important element for maintaining accountable participants and supporting them in what actions to take.

75 percent of participants indicated Coach M was essential in maintaining a self-care plan and building new habits. 85 percent of participants found the tools introduced by Coach M to be highly useful. The ReMind program has a Net Promoter Score of +100.

Nicole White is the CEO and Founder of Australian learning provider The ID Crowd. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science in Psychology and a Master of Arts in e-Learning. The ID Crowd are an offbeat, award-winning bunch of learning experts – weavers of stories and creators of transformative learning. They get their kicks working with customers to solve real business problems and making every learning minute count. You’ll find the team keenly collaborative - they love working closely with clients to craft beautiful and thoughtful experiences that learners love. And that’s not all. The ID Crowd is on a mission to redefine 'eLearning', to challenge the norm and build a new way of thinking about digital design. What if it’s not ‘eLearning’ at all? The ID Crowd works with organisations of all sizes, from Silicon Valley tech giants to not-for profits.