AVA: How learning technologies can change behaviour

Recently, Toby and I attended the launch of AVA’s Digital Prevention Platform. The AVA Project is an online initiative aiming to keep education and social care workers informed about maintaining good practice when reporting disclosures of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).

As it was my first week on the job, the course itself was an education for me about what good elearning can do to change behaviour. Nowhere is this desire for change more crucial than in the fight against VAWG. This morning’s launch included expert speakers – frontline staff, campaigners, Girl Guides and the NSPCC.

The AVA Project works on the basis that preventing abuse is always preferable to curing it. We teamed up with AVA to educate teachers and set a standard of care and procedures that guarantee consistency amongst educators in all circumstances. It was wonderful to see the passion for change and enthusiasm for the project amongst experienced campaigners. Despite the often distressing subject matter, we wanted to assure practitioners that abuse is not something to be avoided; it must be addressed in order to be prevented.

We collaborated with the AVA Project to design a thirty minute elearning course to educate teachers about different types of abuse. It also provided them with knowledge about how to deal with disclosures of incidents, as well as a database to help workers share resources, expertise and case studies.

This is a project with real momentum. Everyone involved is deeply committed to the ‘prevention not cure’ approach towards abuse that AVA advocates. During the launch itself Holly Dustin, the director of the End Violence against Women coalition discussed just how acute the problem has become. She pointed to the social media backlash against Vanessa Feltz, who last week stated that she had been assaulted by Rolf Harris, as a shameful example of the vilification of the victim. For too long now, VAWG just hasn’t been taken seriously enough. Those at the conference wanted to see early intervention to shift attitudes and cultural values.

It came as a shock to me just how widespread VAWG actually is. Last year there were 1.2 million reported victims of domestic abuse. It is clear that all of the disparate targets and expertise need to be brought together to form one united strategy to fight abuse. The Digital Prevention Platform does just this. It speaks with one united voice to inform and advise those in safeguarding roles. Those at the event were clear; if we expect children to feel able to disclose abuse, it is a conversation we need to be having as a society first.

The course’s varied and engaging approach impressed those who had already taken the course, with the ‘real life’ scenarios proving especially helpful. In fact, a school in Cambridge has already integrated the course as part of an induction pack for new teachers starting work in September. The universal standards of good practice that elearning guarantees, along with the face to face aspects of classroom learning will ensure that the lessons from the course are embedded and put into practise.

The development of a database to unify resources across the board is also incredibly useful in a sector often divided into boroughs and local authorities. Feedback from youth and social workers was universally positive and extremely encouraging for the future of the Project; we propose to eventually use the AVA site to map prevention projects so that experts across a wide area can share information and work together – starting a conversation that is open to all.

We were able to show clips of the course itself during the event, and teachers said that the combination of infographics, real-life scenarios and handy pop-up tips would ensure that the common indicators of abuse remained at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It is our hope that in the future, rather than having pockets of knowledge and understanding about different types of abuse, every safeguarder will have instant access to information, as well as an understanding of how to deal with disclosures of abuse

Natalie, a youth outreach worker, was also delighted that the course brings together expertise from so many areas. A common complaint this morning was that schools were simply not aware that instances of abuse were being missed out on because children felt that they couldn’t approach their teachers. Varied and inconsistent reactions to child abuse, as well as a lack of teacher training in this area have meant that sadly, pupils do not always feel able to approach their teachers. AVA’s Digital Prevention Platform aims to change all of this. The design of the database itself also ensures that preventing abuse will remain at the forefront of practitioner’s minds as they are able to edit the database, and include their own case studies in future.

Perhaps one of the most impactful moments at the launch for me was the realisation that this elearning course has the potential to affect real change in the lives of vulnerable women and children. Abuse is a sensitive issue, but feeling comfortable talking about it is a crucial first step. AVA’s change campaign means that teachers will feel confident recognising abuse and putting the correct safeguarding procedures in place to protect the children in their care.

To find out more please visit www.avaproject.org.uk