Helping To Keep Vulnerable Populations Safe


October 2, 2013


A screenshot from the online tutorial
A screenshot from the online tutorial

Protecting vulnerable clients is a major concern of many community-based organizations, but how do you help staff understand the complex, frequently changing rules associated with criminal history checks for new employees and volunteers? That was the challenge facing a team of Education Northwest elearning experts who were asked to create an online tutorial for organizations working with national service members.

The Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) requires its partners to carry out criminal background checks on all VISTA and AmeriCorps volunteers before they’re hired. Often, information about this necessary step is laden with legalese and difficult to digest. “We wanted to make the process as easy and engaging as possible so that people would take the checks seriously and be motivated to conduct them thoroughly,” says Freelin Hummel, who led the design team.

After three months and 55 revisions, the designers came up with an interactive tutorial that focuses on why such background checks are important, what the requirements are, and how to get started doing checks. A final section focuses on helpful resources that can be easily updated.

Finding a way to present important, yet complicated, information in a light-hearted way took the creative talents of Hummel, an instructional designer, as well as a content expert, a writer, a graphic designer/videographer, and an expert in Flash animation. They used a series of characters and scenarios that help users decide who needs a background check and why. “One of the hardest things was to convert the legal language and pare it down while still covering all the bases,” says Nancy Henry, who directs Education Northwest’s Center on Family, School, and Community, which is a major provider of online and face-to-face training for CNCS.

This isn’t the first time Henry’s center has developed compelling, multimedia online training and professional development tools for national service members and their supervisors. Past tutorials deal with the terms, benefits, and conditions of national service and the history, causes, and solutions to poverty.