Non-Profit Youth Organization Assesses Leaders with Questionmark
Young Life undertook online training and testing for all the traditional reasons. What the organization does, however, is anything but. Young Life is a non-denominational, Christian organization committed to making an impact on kids’ lives and preparing them for the future. Active in all 50 states and more than 45 countries, Young Life reaches an estimated 1 million teenagers annually. More than 75,000 high school and middle school kids spend a weekend during the school year or a week during the summer at one of Young Life's 23 camping properties in the United States and Canada.
With 3,200 staff members and more than 30,000 volunteers, the group has a sizeable training project on its hands. Formerly, the organization brought new staff people to its headquarters in Colorado, incurring significant expenses for airfare and hotels. In addition, Young Life realized that the group was not reaching everyone who needed training or orientation. Young Life is attempting to cut down on costs to bring staff to one location; thus online training is very attractive for supplemental training.
Young Life found that not only could it save money by putting materials on the Internet but also could reach a much broader group of members, including volunteers. The latter group, numbering in the thousands, used to receive orientation materials in the form of a handbook or directly from area or regional directors. According to Christa Hilt, the special projects coordinator for the training department, Young Life converted the old handbooks and manuals into interactive and more exciting materials. Each course consists of pictures with embedded Flash elements and linked documents, broken down into multiple modules. Some examples include courses aimed at adult volunteers with instruction about running an effective committee, managing a budget, fundraising, or starting a middle school program.
Unlike many organizations that use assessments to test what participants learn, Young Life uses the software program primarily to survey learners after they complete each course. However, some courses do come with associated tests to ensure that learners have mastered the material. Everyone who enrolls in a course uses their existing Young Life user name and password to log on to Questionmark automatically. In that way, Young Life can track who has completed each lesson. According to senior webmaster Andy Fitch, if participants fail an assessment, the organization notifies their area director.
“When a volunteer goes through a course, takes the test, and fails it, we email that person’s boss indicating, ‘This volunteer took the test; this is how they scored.’ Then their manager can provide them additional coaching,” he said.
Questionmark also provides instant feedback to people taking the assessment, indicating immediately whether they passed or failed. According to Hilt, the reaction to the computerized testing has been very good overall.
Since Young Life’s home office supervises training in the U.S. and abroad, the computerized assessments assure the organization that everyone is getting the same message. Christa Hilt believes that’s the biggest benefit that Questionmark offers. So far several hundred members have taken the online courses and the accompanying assessments or surveys. As Young Life adds courses to the Internet, the group plans to continue providing them online with an accompanying test or survey.