Student Story: Adam Greaves- Social Learning Manager at UK Sport
Can you tell us about yourself and your career within digital learning?
My name is Adam Greaves – and I am the social learning manager for UK Sports. I’ve been at UK Sports for 16 and a half years. And I’ve been in my current role for three and a half years. During the majority of this time, I’ve operated within the learning and development sphere – and my time has been spent designing and delivering programs and initiatives to our users and learners, who are members of the high performance UK sporting community.
Can you tell us about projects that you’ve worked on, and transitions due to the pandemic?
About four years ago, we developed a new people development strategy, whereby there were two core strands that my job has fallen out of. One is around communities of practice, which involves thinking about how we can enable and accelerate sharing connections and collaborative problem solving for members of the high performance community. The other one is around how we can utilise technology as an enabler for the existing, current, and future initiatives. So those have been the two core areas that have continued to expand over the last three and a half years, and are still moving forwards.
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We’re still looking at how we can strategically harness the power that they provide. And the technology side of things has culminated in the procurement and implementation of a digital learning platform. So my role at the moment is around strategically leading the direction as well as the day-to-day operations of that platform. As I previously alluded to, it enables and underpins a blended learning offer, which is part of our wider offer to the high performance sporting community.
Can you share some of the challenges with digital transformation and how you’ve overcome them?
I think anybody that has gone through a procurement process will feel the pain of what that entails. So part of it is just rolling with the punches and getting over the line fundamentally. But I think our shift coincided with the pandemic, which meant that there was a lot more emphasis on digital engagement. Whilst the pandemic didn’t accelerate our plans, I think it gave us an opportunity to capitalise on the experiences that people have had. So during that first year of the pandemic, we ran a webinar series, which were 9 or 10 sessions over the course of a 10 to 12 month period. And that’s where we started to introduce a digital offering to our users, who were not used to that feature as part of our offering before.
I think it’s a little by little, step by step approach that has enabled us to arrive at where we are today, which is launching a more formal system and a digital learning platform. With this, our users can really adopt and engage with our offerings as a way of life when it comes to their learning and professional development.
And what were you drivers to develop your career?
As I mentioned, I’ve been with the company for 16 and a half years. It was my first full-time role out of university. And whilst I was at university, my aim was to end up working in elite sport in some way, shape or form. So from that perspective, I guess you can say that I ticked the box straight away; and I’m very fortunate to have been able to do so. But since that happened, natural ways of working introduced me to the coaching team. I worked specifically with the coaches’ L&D, which was an area that interested me.
Supporting people to develop in order to be the best that they can be and the best version of themselves, and having really meaningful interactions with those individuals is something I’ve received immense satisfaction from being a part of. This coupled with an interest in technology and kind of the digital space brought it all together. And when we had a few reorganisations over the years, as I know a lot of organisations do, it allowed me to put those two together, combine them, and move into the space that blends supporting individuals and utilising technology.
What areas of your career do you feel improved from taking the course? And why do you think they improved?
If I go back to the point I made about my team never having done this before, it’s not just in terms of it not being part of our offering. None of the colleagues in my team had real experience in digital learning. So part of the reason for engaging in the diploma course was to be able to get an insight and a real grounding in some of the principles and processes that underpin really good digital learning design and implementation.
There’s definitely an element of having some comfort in the knowledge that how we’re approaching things is the right way to do it. I know that there is a kind of a parallel between face-to-face learning and digital learning, but I think just considering the digital sense and some of the other constraints and considerations have been positive. When I’ve been having conversations with colleagues about exploring how we would like the learning to show up, it’s been really beneficial to be able to put some of the experiences from the diploma into practice.
What do you think the biggest impact has been within UK sport?
There’s been impacts in a number of areas. But I think one of the benefits was that as part of the diploma, we had to do a project. So I made sure that it was a real live project that we had on the go. This then enabled an extended learning journey for our annual learning development conference, which is called PLx. It meant that it was a way for people to engage in this extended learning journey and to think about the conference side of things, the value and the experience they get from it. They could then consider how to apply it to their world.
By using the tools, processes and content from the diploma, I was able to really put into practice those aspects with a colleague. And we could work out how we could have a really effective journey for the users to engage with as I travelled through a three month, period rather than it just being a single day conference.
And I think this is a really good example of how we can utilise digital learning in our context. We don’t have a lot of compliance or mandatory training that our users have to do. How we started to and what we’ll continue to do is to roll out things that add value to people’s work and experiences. So it’s potentially a little more of a challenge, but I think it’s a good way to start demonstrating how we can do things that complement our existing approaches.
How do you expect the diploma to help you and your organisation over the next 12 months?
The next 12 months will provide a real opportunity for us to grow numbers on our platform. And I think there are two things that are really going to benefit from it. One is going to be that we will soon be communicating what our blended L&D offer is to our learners. But the other is that it will provide us an opportunity to apply some of that theory and think about how we
can we design the initiatives to have the most value and impact for those users.
Then the bit that underpins that is what I want to do. And again, this was one of the drivers for me during the deployment. I wanted to take the learning and utilise the insight and knowledge from the templates that were made available in order to create a flow or an interactive flow. This is so that as we travel through an end-to-end design, we can look at what all the different options are.
Since I’ve been through this course, I will have an understanding. But it’ll be a really valuable and useful tool for me to share with my colleagues to help educate them about best practice when it comes to that end-to-end design. So that’s a key thing with which I think the diploma is really going to help me and the rest of the team. It standardises the approach and it gives us that repeatability – and hopefully robustness, which are some key things which I think we’ll all acknowledge when it comes to rolling out L&D opportunities.
Why did you choose Digital Learning Institute?
There were a couple of reasons. One was around the accreditation that it provided. I think it helps with the perspective of knowing that you’re not an imposter dabbling around in the digital world. But after the course, you’ve got some real core underpinnings that you can take forward wherever you go. I think the other aspect of it, which applies to the context of my world, is to have the opportunity to spend some time in classrooms undertaking self-directed learning with the community. As we’ve already mentioned, fitting around a project which we could make work was another positive. So there’s kind of a win-win in that scenario.
Can you describe your experience with Digital Learning Institute? And which area did you receive the most value and why do you think that is?
I think high-level accreditations are sometimes associated with academia. I’m not one for masses of academia and research, but it is good to learn about the underlying principles. Although they are based in academia, one aspect that came through really well and I was able to relate to was the way in which the course was structured around some of the key principles, but wasn’t directing you to go and read journal article after journal article. It was around the practical application of things, which was a real positive.
One of the things, which was mentioned at the beginning of the diploma, was that the first few sessions would be pretty heavy when it comes to theory in order to bring everybody up to a level. So there was a lot of theory to work through; but it was done in an engaging way within the LMS environment, which was made available. So you could take your time, spend longer if you needed, or whizz through it, if you’re refreshing your memory.
In addition, I think the opportunity to speak with individuals in the virtual classrooms was positive. It’s good as a sense check to see how everyone is finding the course, whether that be around the volume of work, or whether there were challenges with the assignments, which were peppered throughout the course.
It was also good to get some insight into what other sectors are doing. That space was really beneficial in understanding what’s actually going on out there, since you tend to operate in a bubble. Getting your head up can be a real great eye opener.
If an L&D professional is on the fence about signing up for the course, what would you tell them?
I think it’s a really important step to take the jump into it with both feet. From my own individual perspective, we were going through an organisational redesign and restructure between July and December last year; and I had started the diploma in October. We were right in the midst of the transformation as well as juggling with day-to-day work. So I would say to myself at the time that this is time and money that is invested because you can see the long-term gains from it.
It’s a really practical, applicable course you can tailor to meet your needs as well as get that real fundamental underpinning around digital learning design. At the end of the day, you’ve got some great support opportunities within it as well – whether that be through the peers that are on the course or through the tutors. So it’s really worthwhile and you come out of it safe in the knowledge that you’ve taken away those core principles and you’ve got an accreditation with it as well. The accreditation was certainly a big selling point for myself, and it’s a real positive opportunity that can help benefit your work even whilst you’re on the course.
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