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Photo: Some of the volunteer digital coaches instrumental in the development of Home Connect

Volunteer Digital Coach Task Force Refines Home Connect Design

This is our story — the second in a three-part recap of how Community Tech Network’s volunteers and employees, supported by leadership from our board members and financial supporters, changed our focus and quickly reengineered our service delivery model.

Home Connect’s design called for CTN’s staff trainers to work with older adult learners: assisting with obtaining access to the internet, delivering a digital device, and conducting the first five training sessions. These sessions include

  • Getting to Know Your Device
  • Searching the Internet
  • Introduction to Email
  • Online Safety
  • Using the Camera

Once the learner was comfortable with the device and had a good understanding of these five areas, the staff trainer would assist with matching a volunteer digital coach with each learner to complete the remaining training sessions.

Unlike the required basic sessions taught by the staff trainers, the volunteer digital coaches would be delivering the “electives,” which would vary with each learner according to personal preferences. Staff members created a list of suggested topics that they believed would be the most popular and beneficial for high-risk older adults sheltering at home. Refining this curriculum, to be called Learning Pathways, would become the work of the Volunteer Task Force.

Emails were sent to all volunteers in early April, providing an overview of the Home Connect program and inviting those interested in learning more to join a webinar hosted by CTN staff. Ten volunteers on the call expressed a desire to take an active role in Home Connect’s further development and refinement.

Working sessions were organized, allowing smaller groups of volunteers to validate and finalize the list of learning pathways. The task force volunteers and the learning pathways they selected for development are

  • Communicating with Family and Friends. Volunteers: Santosh, Amy
  • Accessing Healthcare and Telemedicine. Volunteers: Cecelia and Edwin
  • Ordering Meals/Services Online.  Volunteers: Diana, Alexa, Anthony
  • Completing Online Forms (original working title: Online Banking). Volunteers: Donald, Deepa
  • Access to Entertainment, Online Resources, and Live Streaming. Volunteers: Diana, Deepa, Steve

Then each of the pathway teams met independently to design and develop a curriculum and identify additional supporting materials that would be necessary to teach their selected pathway. Once this step was completed, their pathways were provided to CTN staff for consolidation and dissemination to all task force members. One final large group meeting was held to finalize and approve the Learning Pathways curriculum.

While the task force was finishing its work, CTN’s training partners provided names of qualifying potential learners. Staff followed up with potential students and began to engage them in the training process. As the work of the Volunteer Task Force concluded, self-selected members prepared to become volunteer digital coaches. All were required to attend a 90-minute online training and watch two videos on internet safety and elder abuse. Learn more about becoming a volunteer digital coach.

It is essential that we recognize the 10 volunteers listed above who served on the Volunteer Task Force, as well as the others who have joined the digital coach team. Their work, shared vision, dedication, and commitment to CTN and to those we serve is demonstrated by their early successes in delivering the Learning Pathways curriculum to program participants. And yes, the trainers, digital coaches, and learners are all able to remain in the comfort and safety of their own homes throughout the entire process!

Up Next, Part 3 of 3: Home Connect After Three Months

Link to COVID response Blog #1

Link to COVID response Blog #3


CTN’s Response to COVID-19: Part 2 of 3

About Author

Stephen Minor