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Become an IDOL 85: Volunteer Instructional Designers with OWL-Open World Learning

#become an idol podcast #becomeanidol #becomeaninstructionaldesigner #freecharityresources #freeonlinelearning #volunteerinstructionaldesigner Jul 30, 2023

Guest: Randi Myers & Teresa O 

In this episode, I'm chatting with Randi Myers and Teresa O from OWL which is Open World Learning, a FREE online training platform being offered to all registered charities in the US and Canada! Tune in to hear about this amazing resource and the process for volunteering as an instructional designer. 

Listen to this episode below: 

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Learn more about OWL-Open World Learning

Enjoy the Episode Transcript below:   

Robin Sargent  I have here with me today, Randi Meyers and Teresa O, and they are from Open World Learning. And so before we get into exactly what we're going to talk about, well, you two do a better job of introducing yourself. We'll start with Randi.

Randi Myers  Yeah, sure. Hi. It's great to meet everyone. I am Randi Myers. I'm director of impact and I work at Intercap. And I head up intercap impact, which is the CSR division of intercap. We are a merchant bank. So essentially, we help startups with investments, mostly tech startups. So we know a lot about business and technology. And we've created a really amazing CSR initiative called OWL, which is Open World Learning, which is a free online training platform for all registered charities in the US and Canada.

Robin Sargent  Go ahead, Teresa. Tell us who you are.

Teresa 0  Yeah, sure. Hi, my name is Teresa. And I'm the learning administration manager at owl. So essentially, I'm the go to person for charities. So they come to me with questions, onboarding, how to use the platform, what courses they want, so I'm always there for them. And like, part of my title is learning. So I learned every day as well with all the charities. But essentially, we just want to empower all the registered charities in US and Canada. So yeah, so we just but and then want to emphasize that it's free. So as long as you're a registered charity, join OWL.

Robin Sargent  Yeah. And so we actually found each other because OWL has partnered with IDOL courses, and specifically IDOL Academy, to get volunteers to help with the different customization and curation of these free online courses that charities are accessing. And so I invited Randi and Teresa here today to talk about their charity and what they're working on, and also specifically about the process and progress they've made with working with our own IDOL volunteers. And so, Randy, will you just tell us how you found IDOL courses and got this initiative started?

Randi Myers  Yes, for sure. So I also my background is also as a content creator. So I have a very sort of interesting background, I used to be a lawyer, and then I became a mediator. And then I became a journalist. And then it became when everything moved online, I became a content creator. So I work with companies and brands to create content, etc. And I started getting very interested in elearning, and creating elearning. And one day, I started working for Intertap. And we decided to create this free platform for charities and stock it with online learning. And I thought, you know, it'd be very interesting to learn how to create the elearning. Myself, as well, I just thought it was really interesting. So one Sunday, I was on LinkedIn and I just started looking around on LinkedIn and doing some research and Google searching here and there. And it led me somehow to read it, where some people were saying that IDOL courses was the best place in the US to learn how to create elearning. And I thought, wow, that's really interesting. Maybe I'll sign up so I contacted IDOL courses, I think I ended up talking to Blaine there. And we started talking about the idea of offering elearning support to charities through OWL. And he realized that IDOL projects would be a really good fit for that, that volunteers would be able to sort of step up and work with charities to customize elearning. And that was sort of the beginning of how we came to be partners. And then obviously, I still wanted to learn how to do it myself. So Teresa and I enrolled, and we started tinkering around, and we got ourselves in our articulate team subscription. And we started becoming familiar with the process of creating elearning as well.

Robin Sargent  Yeah. And so then you guys are in it. And you're also working with volunteers, and I think we created your own space in our IDOL community. And so tell us about how this works. All right. So you have your platform and you have your free courses, what do you need volunteers to do for you?

Randi Myers  So there's two levels on our wall. So all registered charities are able to go to www dot owl dot inc. So I N C, and in the top right corner, they can click join OWL. And then they can access our free curated library of elearning that we've created under various topics, topic catalogs, then if they want to create their own elearning for their own charity, whether that's for their internal charity members, so staff, volunteers and board members, and or for their clients, they may want to create their own elearning and share it on OWL, they can apply for an upgraded account, which is also free. And they can receive their own branded platform on OWL. So each charity, think we have a dozen charities right now on there with their own branded platform. They learned to manage their own platform on OWL, we created a couple of elearning courses to teach them how. And they can upload their users etc. And they can also upload their own elearning. So if they have their own programming, they can upload it right away. But a lot of charities don't have their own elearning programming, they have PowerPoints, or they have videos, and so they don't know how to convert it to elearning. So that's where the volunteers come in, volunteers can work with us, a charity can select the volunteers. And we can work together using our articulate team's count. And we can support the creation of the customized elearning that the charity is looking to create.

Robin Sargent  How many volunteers have you worked with so far from IDOL Academy?

Randi Myers  Yeah, so we just started this program, we just got our feet wet with two volunteers who were amazing, by the way, they were in different states, and different time zones. And we're in Toronto, Canada, but they made it work. They were both very professional and very lovely to work with. And very accommodating, they just couldn't do enough for us, they were really excited by what we're doing for charities. And we created two pretty long courses that go together that are HR compliance courses so that charities really need. And we really, as Teresa said, we've been learning as we go. So it was a really great learning opportunity for Teresa and I as well, to become more adept at creating elearning. And figuring out what really works and where it's impactful.

Robin Sargent  What were some of your key takeaways? Teresa, so whenever you started bringing the volunteers on, what were some of the things that you learned about the process, or elearning, or your needs of your learners or anything?

Teresa 0  I also come from an education background, so I used to work with children. So learning is always my thing but then never really had an opportunity to actually have a chance to explore a learning management system. So this is kind of a whole new thing for me. But like as we go and Randi mentioned, the volunteers are really helpful, they're really creative. You just have a lot of options with content, creation, right? There's always something new, right? You're not restricted in something, you can just be so creative about it. And then working with all volunteers, like as a team, you can pick each other spring because everybody works differently, right? A different style, right? t's just kind of like the inspiration, like how inspiring each other ancd oming from a charity perspective, but like bring somebody for example, as a volunteer perspective, then, you know, kind of inspire us how we improve our elearning style or modules. So when everybody has a same mindset, like supporting people helping people, it just, it just gets better.

Robin Sargent  Yeah, yeah. So you are listening and taking in their feedback constantly. And you guys are getting feedback from your charities and your learners and your volunteers. And that's also something else. We talked a little bit before we started recording. And you guys, I just love all the collaboration that has come together to make OWL possible. And so Randi, would you just kind of describe what all well, who are you collaborating with? Yes, you are collaborating with IDOL courses in our IDOL World project and our students and then you but it's an arm of Intercap I think is what you said and but you have other partners too.

Randi Myers  Yeah, that's right. That's right. So ao is a free learning platform. It's stocked with free charity focused elearning. It's powered by Docebo Learning Suite, which is an incredible learning management system that's used by some of the biggest corporations in the world. Thompson Writers, Lululemon, Walmart, you can see it I mean, it's just a fantastic, robust platform that offers a really rich learning experience and was was customizable, so that we could create really design a platform that's, that's customized specifically for charities. And we're very grateful to Docebo as one of our partners. The platform's was designed and funded by Intercap Impact as a corporate social responsibility initiative. So we're very fortunate that we're backed by a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist and that we're able to offer these valuable resources to registered charities completely for free. And then we have a number of other really amazing supporting partners that have helped us to get to where we are today. If you go to our site at, www dot owl dot inc, so i n c, and you click on partners, then you can see all the amazing partners that have lended their time and effort to help us Arkin crown media has created videos for us, which we'll share with you in case you want to share them to show charities what owl is and to show people what our lives so they can send their favorite charity for free elearning.

Robin Sargent  And so how what how is the outreach been so far? It's such a new initiative, and I know that you guys just rebranded and those kinds of things. And so what's your current well, impact right now? Who are you looking to serve? I mean, I know charities across the US and Canada, but I think you probably have a bigger mission.

Randi Myers  Yeah, so we called an owl open world learning. Because the age of AI is here, we think that a lot of content is going away of free, particularly basic content that people really need. And for organizations that can't really afford to pay for it, such as many, many charities that don't have the budget. We're starting with registered charities in the United States and Canada. But our goal ultimately is to make our free Open World Learning everywhere in the world for charities.

Robin Sargent And so what kind of wouldn't people get there? And they register? And they like, No, this is real, this is free? What's been the reaction to discovering you all?

Randi Myers  Well, it's really interesting. We meet with charities all the time. And they say, Well, wait a minute, what's the catch, and we keep telling them, there is no catch. This is free. And they hear us and they say, okay, so we join, when we join, when they click join OWL, we check to see that they're actually registered before we verify them. And then they can upload a CSV of internal members. So they get to choose who they want to share access to their free account with, so they can share it with their staff, their volunteers and or their board members. And those people automatically get login credentials and can sign in. And then once they sign in, they see that there's topic catalogs that Teresa has curated, courses and programs that have downloadable certificates of completion as proof of training, etc. In main areas that charities really need, so EDI, mental health and well being, board governance, leadership, soft skills and HR compliance. And then as I said, they have the possibility of upgrading their account. And this is where charities always say, oh, so when we upgrade the account, that's when there's going to be a cost. And we have to keep telling them no, no, it's free, then you upgrade your account if you want. And you can apply for branded platform. And you can apply for the the ability to have custom dashboards for clients as well and your own branded platform you can manage, and you can get the IDOL support for instructional design for your own courses. And charities just cannot wrap their minds around that that could be free. Right? So it's it's really like that the two kind of places that we have to keep convincing them is number one, that it's free. And number two, that there's no limit on users. So those are the two questions we get over and over again, even at the end of a demo. They'll say Okay, so what's the cost again? And we really, we promise this is free.

Robin Sargent  Yeah, yeah, we just want you to use it. 

Randi Myers  I just want you to use it and learn how to use set and educate your charity so that you can build their skills and talent, right? Because that's the thing is that charities need to build skills and talent, they need online training. And a lot of charities don't really realize that what it is or that they need it. So that's kind of, we feel like we're constantly educating charities, we have to show them in a demo, this is what it looks like. So what we're hoping is that registered charities will go on to owl dot inc. They'll click join OWL, and they'll self enroll in some of the courses that are already there in the free library. And they'll be able to see for themselves, wow, look at these incredible, incredibly valuable resources that will strengthen our teams. Yeah, and then go from there.

Robin Sargent  And if they upgrade whenever they figured out that it's not a trick, upgrade, and they start working with a volunteer. Do they just work directly with the volunteer? Or are you guys involved in that process?

Randi Myers  So we have one charity, we have one really incredible charity, who already has a Platform account. So they've already upgraded. They're called Mentor Vermont. And they basically run the youth mentorship, they basically teach, train mentors throughout the state of Vermont. So they've been working for the past year, I think, on creating content, some pretty incredible content, videos, etc, to help all these different mentors throughout the state to be able to mentor youth in their areas. But how are they going to convert all that amazing content into elearning, and deliver it to their mentors, well they're going to use their free branded platform to do that. So there'll be writing their requirements for what type of volunteers they need, and what their project is all about. And they'll and then through us, they'll be submitting that to the IDOL projects, volunteer thread. And then they can interview with our help, one of us will probably be sitting in on the interviews, and will be basically overseeing the process between the charity and volunteers. Now that we've taken some courses with adult courses, we know kind of what we're doing probably not as well as many of the volunteers, but we know enough. And we also listened very carefully, particularly Teresa to the needs of each charity, the learning needs of each charity. So she has a really good handle on what each charity's learning needs are and what they're looking for. So we'll be kind of in and out with that process, helping with design helping with answering questions helping with kind of, I guess, I would say we're kind of like bridging the relationship between the charity and the end volunteers, they choose.

Robin Sargent  What an opportunity for that volunteer to write not only did they get to give back to charity, so they're already doing something good in the world, they get to practice their instructional design skills. And do they also get to help load it to the branded platform, when it's created? Do they get to do any LMS admin too?

Randi Myers I don't, I don't really think so I think that's something that Theresa does, just to make sure it's done directly. She's the super admin on the platform. And there's a lot of charities that are going to be on there. So like, nothing can go wrong. So that would be her function. It's actually very, very simple, though, to upload through Docebo. It's like, Docebo has made that very, very easy to do that the hard work is going to be in the designing of the courses. And that's where we're going to be leaning on our volunteers.

Robin Sargent  Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. You got some quality controls that you got going on. But then maybe my great a guide there training on your own process.

Randi Myers  For sure. You know, and also as we grow, you never know what opportunities we'll have as well to bring people on. So our hope is that there'll be so many charities that discover OWL and discover all this amazing free elearning that's just waiting for them that we will need more Teresa's to be helping us as well.

Robin Sargent  We've talked a lot about owl dot inc, and your open world learning initiative. Is there anything that you can tell us about something that you guys look for when you're looking for your volunteer instructional designers? Because everybody listens to podcasts a lot of them are either newbies are their veterans, instructional designers. And so, yeah, so I mean, you're hiring managers, not for pay, but you are hiring volunteers and it's quite an opportunity. So what are some of the things you're looking for?

Randi Myers  I think people that are very accessible. For one, as I said, we're in Toronto. So like, sometimes we've got a timezone issue. So we really need people who are accessible and who can make the time, that would probably be high up on our list in terms of what we're looking for. Also people who are really sort of committed to the project, we also had a look at some of the resumes.

Somebody who can make improvements and edits and somebody who's quick, because we're pretty accessible, we're pretty quick. And charities can kind of lag behind, it's not really like necessarily working with companies, they have a lot on the go. They're really busy. Oftentimes, they're strapped by their budget, and they need we need to like sort of churn out the content. So people who are who are quick and committed.

Robin Sargent  Yeah. I mean, that's, that's sounds like, that sounds like a good list, right? Like, first, will you do the project? Exactly. Well, so just kind of based on what you guys have learned, and just starting this initiative, what is your best and final advice that you would give to people that are looking to become an instructional designer?

Randi Myers  Hmm, I would say it's really important to sort of love content, like, as I said, my first passion is as a content creator. And I love words, and I love creating content that love communicating messages. So I think that's a really important piece. And I think you have to be a really good listener, because you really have to be listening. Whenever I'm working on any kind of content. I'm always interviewing a client of some kind, and I really have to listen to what are they looking to create? What are they looking to design like? That is? It's not just the message, it's not just the messaging, it's what are their values? Who's their target? How are they going to reach that target? So you really want to be live? You really want to have the right questions that you're asking, and you really want to be listening very carefully to the answers.

Robin Sargent  How about you, Teresa? Have you picked up any things that you would give advice to new instructional designers?

Teresa 0  Yeah, the one thing is really big. It's like, you have to love learning, like in new, right? Like you have to open to learn new things always open to because then the world is just like, evolving so quickly, right? There's a lot of resources out there. The technology's just growing so quickly. There's a lot of like, different ways to find content resources, but like, how do you get the best and then put it together and then share with other people? Right, like you have to loves researching love learning. If you're just just always just have the mindset of like, oh, this is good enough. I don't think it's good enough. Because like, there's always something new, something more. And you you always have to also have the mindset to like, what do you want to share with people like you want to share the best with people? I think that's also the mindset, right? Like, because then that's how you would want to put together good content to people.

 Randi Myers  I agree with that. And that's part of the reason also why, even in our own elearning library that's free, we update the courses on a regular basis, we want to keep our material current. And that's another thing about content is that it does get stale fairly quickly in our world. So you want to be able to sort of keep an eye on that and be looking in the right places for what's new. And what's next.

Robin Sargent  That was beautiful. This was just such a wonderful conversation. I love that you guys came and talk to us about your incredible initiative at owl dot inc. And that charities that are registered in the US and Canada can go and click and sign up for free today. And so I hope everyone listening to this goes and checks it out and maybe shares it with your own charity that you are familiar and a fan of or maybe even volunteer for just to help get the word out. And yes, it really is free. There is no catch. And so thank you so much for sharing your passion and your organization with us. And I hope that it continues to grow. 

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