Four issues that commonly affect member or volunteer-based organisations are resource limitations, responsiveness, technology and changing expectations. As the digital sphere has grown and the size and scale of organisational operations and activities increase, so have the number of moving parts needing to be considered – meaning many are struggling to keep up.
What’s more, as the cogs in the machine continue to multiply even further, these issues create new challenges for how to recruit and retain members and volunteers down the track.
It all soon becomes a vicious cycle that has ultimately led to the downfall of many a member or volunteer-based organisation – from charities and professional associations, to gyms and football clubs.
As such, organisations are now more than ever having to acquire cross functional skills and adopt new business processes to more effectively manage their members/volunteers in order to develop lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with them.
Combine this with the ability store contact information and a participant’s history, as well as scheduling tools to track responses, availability and allocate tasks, managing 10,000 volunteers is suddenly not as daunting.
Moreover, for not-for-profits and charities, the professional skills of volunteers of today are impressive. Gone are the days when volunteer staff was comprised of university kids looking to gain experience and retirees looking to kill time. Many of today’s volunteers are professionals with degrees and experience. Given this, it is more important than ever to find ways to manage, utilise and maximise these amazing resources as much as possible.
Optimising these aspects of your organisational capacity is a critical part of any efficient member or volunteer based organisation and will ultimately contribute to your success looking to the future.
The process of designing and developing websites and applications is changing. Tools and skillsets are always pushing forward. Speed of delivery is more important than ever. End-users are becoming more sophisticated and harder to define. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and shifts in strategy along the way has never been more vital.As a result, the old way of doing things just doesn’t cut it anymore.
How do you handle change requests? What about shifts in the market environment, or even technology? You can’t climb back up the waterfall. You can’t restart the assembly line.
Unfortunately, in today’s business environment, this is kind of naive. How do you handle change requests? What about shifts in the market environment, or even technology? You can’t climb back up the waterfall. You can’t restart the assembly line. These kind considerations create issues with the schedule, which affect the deadlines, and can cause lots of lost work hours and budget blowouts.
Moreover, because everything is handed off to the next department, nobody really knows anything about the decisions that were made before the project got handed off to them, nor how they came to those conclusions. This means the team isn’t working together and isn’t sharing knowledge, resulting in developers implementing a website or application without having any input prior.
What if it can be built, but it does not meet business needs? What is the cost to the organisation in productivity reduction, poor efficiency, and lost opportunity? It’s just a disaster waiting to grab headlines.
These days design and development really need to work together. And, as we’ve learned the hard way ourselves, SEO specialists need to be there as well when the product developed is a website, because when SEO becomes an afterthought, the end goal is not clear. This means that developers are included in the design process, offering suggestions about functionality and keeping the content management concerns in mind. Many change requests are handled mid-process, on the fly. Many designers also understand code, even if it’s just basic HTML and CSS. Developers have a better understanding on UX/UI concepts.
And what does all this result in you ask? A higher quality result.
How’s your design/development process? Are they working together, learning from each other, helping each other make a better product? Give it a shot on a smaller project. You can change the process faster and adapt as necessary.
Walk into the average school classroom and you can expect to find desks or tables either lined up to face the front of the class, or arranged into islands for group work. The walls and doors of the room will be covered with inspirational learning posters, and maybe a display area for student work. You may even see a couple of computer screens or laptops sitting in the corner.
However, times are rapidly changing, and in a few schools you may discover a very different layout, and it will be one that is predicted to become more commonplace as the future fast approaches and software is enabling new possibilities.
Blended learning is a formal education program where certain content and instructional details are delivered to the student via digital and online media. Students still attend a ‘traditional’ classroom but face to face learning is combined with computer interaction.
In the newest classrooms where blended learning has already been adopted, you will be more likely to see rows of laptops or computer screens where students are working through online courses rather than collectively with their teacher.
You will find an actual teacher present in the classroom, but their role will be to offer immediate support or assistance to individuals who may be struggling with certain aspects of their online course.
Each student will be following their own lesson plan at their own pace through the use of self-guided digital lessons. However, they will be allowed and encouraged to collaborate with their classmates on joint projects and experiments.
‘Blended Learning Labs’ are beginning to pop up in educational establishments across the world, and so far the results are proving to be very promising. By actively mixing online digital lessons with in-person attendance, students are able to work to their individual levels without the risk of falling behind the rest of the class, or becoming bored because the work is not being issued quickly enough.
This method of learning is more commonplace in the USA, where programmes have been developed to cover everything from archaeology to science and web design. This forward-thinking step has been introduced into a number of schools as a way to help children prepare themselves for a future where technology will be part of everyday life, but still allows these schools to replicate a classroom environment where a qualified teacher is on hand for advice and guidance.
As technology has advanced, and the related costs of software licensing and hardware has fallen to affordable levels, some schools are now able to introduce blended learning into a single classroom with the intention to eventually expand it across the whole school, absorbing the costs gradually as they update their out-of-date technology.
Meeting a greater need for tailored education
One of the many benefits of educating through technology is that every student is treated as an individual which allows them to learn at their own pace and comfort level. It allows above-average students to work independently and take on more challenges. At the same time, it will give students who may struggle with a particular subject the freedom to pause and absorb facts and techniques, go back and repeat sections they need more understanding of, and all without feeling self-conscious in front of their classmates.
Many home educated students already study through online programmes, so certain aspects of blended learning would already be familiar to them. Not only can they benefit from the online digital lessons, but also from the input and guidance of a qualified teacher through a web-cam, if needed. It can also be of great assistance to children who miss large chunks of school due to a medical condition, or long periods of hospitalisation.
No limits to class sizes
The British classroom now holds up to 32 students on average, but with the introduction of blended learning, there’s no restriction set on the number of students in any one class. There will always be room for more students, so there will be no competition for places for popular subjects, and the school will not need to employ more teaching staff to run multiple lessons.
For older students, there would also be the opportunity to enroll for classes without actually having to attend the class in person. A number of content management systems already cater to this specific niche, but even developing a WordPress website could tackle this need. This would be helpful for students who live in remote locations, or for children that miss school due to severe weather. This could see an end to those famous snow days! Schools could effectively continue to deliver an education when it is not safe for students to attend class, for example during the winter if the school heating breaks down, or due to freezing temperatures making paths and playgrounds inaccessible by foot.
The digital lessons are also formulated to appeal to students in a way a white-board and marker pen can never match. All children will be equipped to thrive and learn with no-one feeling as if they are being ignored or left behind.
Having the chance to deliver tailor made digital lessons is a great way to help prepare children for their future that will involve them working closely with technology. The schools that have already incorporated blended learning are seeing fantastic results, and it will not be long before more schools will follow suit.
How often have you heard someone say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’? It sounds good, but the practice of not prejudging the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone is far more difficult.
The reality is the majority of us are a fairly judgemental bunch. From where we get our clothes dry-cleaned, to what postcode we choose to live in (or not live in), to what cafe we spend Sunday mornings at, we all tend to be Judgy McJudgersons from time to time, make decisions on a daily basis based on a perceived value or attitude toward something.
I’m no different. I’ve chosen not to eat at a restaurant because of their tablecloths alone. They were a green, checkered pattern and looked like some sort of optical illusion.
The point is, people judge and form opinions about organisations, many of which are based on superficial perceptions.
A website has its own set of elements people evaluate. These form the basis of assumptions that influence many people’s perceptions of an organisation and their products and services, not to mention their credibility, trustworthiness, authority, and likability.
I often find myself coming to almost subconscious conclusions about organisations based on their website alone, as I am sure many people do. It tells me who the organisation is, what kind of customer they’re attempting to attract, their workplace and customer service culture, and sometimes, that their suffering from congenital cataracts and live in an online world comprising only of Internet Explorer 6.
A company’s website should guide a user in a certain manner and reflect the type of experience that company wants its audience to feel and understand. This should extend beyond the website’s homepage to every possible landing page within a site, as discussed in our blog post last month.
“But Bree!”, you say, “Why does my website really matter if my product is good? People will look past it to my awesome products and services”.
When navigating through the site, it soon becomes clear the owner is very proud of his business, and I have no reason to doubt why he shouldn’t be.
Unfortunately, this website is awesomely terrible. Outdated in form and function, the site suffers from a poor navigation, distracting background and a dreadful layout. The majority of imagery throughout the site has also obviously been copied from a professional hair care company’s website, with no clear indication of how the two businesses are linked, or even if they’re related at all.
This is, of course, not to say this salon doesn’t actually offer a very high quality professional hairdressing service. In fact, upon further investigation, they have quite a few very positive reviews across a number of noticeboard forums.
However, their own website does not communicate this in anyway, failing to arouse any great sense of trustworthiness or credibility for a consumer – something most important for any women seeking a cut, colour and blowdry. When comparing to the websites of mainstream competitors such as Tony & Guy and Rush, the difference in perceived quality and professionalism of the service provided is clear.
This is just one of many poor websites on the web. And none of them need to be this way given how easy and inexpensive it is to setup a simple brochure website.
The point is, the web exposes organisations. Like the cover of a book, people often prejudge the contents or quality of a business, product or service by its outward appearance alone. And while many businesses spend a lot of time and money making sure their brick and mortar store or shopfront looks clean, tidy and enticing to the passing consumer, they don’t give as much attention to their website despite it being, after all, their digital storefront.
As a result, business’s need to realise their website isn’t about them. Rather, a business’s website should lay the groundwork and guide a user in a certain manner that not only reflects the type of experience they want their audience to have, but also the type of experience their audience desires to have and expects to receive.
Ask yourself, does your website design encourage users to take the actions they need to on your site or does it distract them and push them away?
Curious what it would be like to work at Totally? Over the coming months we will take a look at all the different jobs here at Totally and hear from our staff exactly what it’s like to live a day in the life of their job.
Can you tell us about yourself and your role at Totally?
I’m Ali, a recent graduate of Computer Science from Brunel University. I moved to London soon after graduating, with the hope I’d find a job in web development; I have now been working at Totally for six months. I’ve had a strong passion for mobile application development since I can remember and university really strengthened this passion for me as I found it to be the module I enjoyed most.
What would you describe as a typical day in the office?
As soon as I come in I make sure I get my daily caffeine fix with a cup of coffee. Next I open up the online platform which our support team use called ‘Zendesk’. Zendesk is a cloud-based customer service platform which includes ticketing and customer support features. I will then have a multitude of projects and support tickets which I have to juggle between – my first objective is to focus on what project to prioritise and the best way to approach this. I have to make sure that I’m available to talk to our clients through Zendesk or over the phone about any problems they may be having or any new features they are requesting.
As a support developer I must ensure I’m always monitoring the support queue along with the rest of my team, however while doing this I’ll be working on my own individual projects; for example I am currently building a website for one of our clients, the Commercial Bar Association. As well as this I’m working on microsites for some of our existing clients. Besides my intense work schedule, I’m currently involved in a fierce table tennis competition with my colleague, Joao, so that is definitely a big part of my day – although I am unfortunately losing.
What made you want a career in web development?
I started programming when I was around 11, mainly creating online games, which – as you probably know – isn’t the way most 11 year old boys spend their free time, but for some reason I really took an interest in it and it became my favourite hobby as a young child. I never lost interest in it as I then decided to pursue it as a career. After graduating from university I knew all I wanted was to be at the forefront of new web technologies.
What would you say are the main skills one needs to become a support developer?
Well there are probably too many skills to list; however, a few that come to mind would firstly be communication skills, because all the work we’re doing is evidently for our clients and we must ensure we understand and meet their needs, be this over the phone, in person or just simply via email. I also think one would need to be able to adjust quickly and have the ability to break down complex problems. Additionally, it’s important to find the right balance between learning and teaching. I’ve been here for six months and I’m still learning new things each day, even from those who may have less experience; likewise they will often look to me for advice, which I am more than happy to give.
Finally, I can’t promise it will be like this at every software development company, but here you have to know how to handle your alcohol in any social situation; a key skill that I wish someone had taught me before committing to this position. But who doesn’t enjoy being the office lightweight, right?
What would you say you most look forward to about coming to work?
This sounds very cliché but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of the things I look forward to is definitely seeing my colleagues, along with all the other fun parts of the office, like the free beer and the Pizza Friday. On a more professional note, I tend to get excited about what challenges I will be faced with. As a developer, every day is different, you work with different people, different projects and different clients so it’s actually a fairly satisfying feeling to encounter a variety of different activities each day and something I really look forward to.
What part of your job do you find most challenging?
As I said earlier, it’s not always easy to just choose one thing as every day brings new challenges, but on a general note it is always difficult to alternate between support tickets and other projects. I’m finding the more experience I get, the easier it becomes. However, sometimes it can feel like there isn’t enough hours in the day to do it all! I’ve always been pretty good at managing my time, so it’s definitely something I’m working on and feel like I’m getting better at.
Is there a project you’ve worked on and are particularly proud of, if so what is it and why?
Yes, my current project. This is my first responsive mobile site which is something I’ve really wanted to work on for a while and it’s great because it’s really challenging, which also means I’m increasing my skills in that particular area of the job. I’m also enjoying it as I’m working directly with the designers; I’m getting feedback from them and my supervisor which is very beneficial to me.
If a new person was to join the support team what advice would you give them?
First and foremost I’d say to be yourself. My second piece of advice would be to listen 80% of the time and talk 20%; you’ll find that the more you listen, the more you’ll learn. This office in particular is full of very knowledgeable people, so I say speak up if you don’t understand something, add input when and where you can and of course spend as much time as you can learning from the people around you. On a more personal note, I’d definitely say interact with your colleagues as much as you can, partake in work outings and always ensure you get the right balance between work and fun.
Like the sound of being part of the support team at Totally? We’ve often got roles going, check our Careers page.