Keeping pace with change
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) is the leading voice for retail, food and commercial workers. It’s Canada’s largest private-sector union, representing more than 250,000 workers in some of the country’s fastest-growing industries. UFCW Canada is a proud union that feeds, serves and provides for Canada’s hardworking families.
UFCW Canada believes that education can empower workers to make their mark in the world. The organization is committed to providing members and their families with opportunities to gain the skills and knowledge to succeed in an increasingly digital economy. With emerging technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence and robotics changing the way we live and work, UFCW Canada wants to ensure that its members aren’t left behind.
“85% of all jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet,” says Marv Funk, education director at UFCW Canada. “The same was true 10 years ago, too. As things change, we want to give our members the opportunity to keep learning and developing their skills—or even retrain for a new career direction. Most of our members left high school thinking that they’d never need to do any education again, but that simply isn’t the case. Our goal is to support their ongoing development.”
Finding the right partner
For more than 20 years, UFCW Canada members and their immediate families have been able to access free online courses through webCampus, the organization’s e-learning portal. To take webCampus to the next level, UFCW Canada teamed up with D2L to replace the current learning management system (LMS) with D2L Brightspace.
“Our previous LMS provider was only able to offer limited support, which was holding us back,” explains Funk. “For example, if we needed to change something in a course, it would take several months for them to implement the request. The service we receive from D2L couldn’t be more different. We have a dedicated customer success manager and a technical account manager who stay in regular contact and always help us make changes very quickly and efficiently.”
UFCW Canada worked with D2L to redesign and expand its course catalog to meet the different objectives and learning styles of its members.
“We are amazed at the popularity and effectiveness of short training opportunities that members can complete in 15 minutes or a half-hour lunch,” says Funk. “We recognize that attention span is having a greater and more significant effect on learning, so we’re exploring ways to meet our members where they are at.”
The result was introducing 15-minute single-topic modules, micro-credentials and new hybrid courses that blend live, instructor-led Zoom sessions with self-paced, independent learning.
“The Brightspace platform has lots of great features that make it easier for us to design courses, such as easy-to-use HTML page templates,” comments Funk. “The Learning Services team created 20 unique page templates that our educators can customize to create an engaging experience for learners.”
Adopting new ways of learning
One new hybrid course on Indigenous rights and activism aims to help all members throughout Canada learn about the challenges faced by Indigenous people, paving the way to mutual respect and understanding.
Members register for the one-day course and attend an introductory Zoom meeting led by an Indigenous elder. Then they have a few hours to read through the course material at their own pace before a second Zoom meeting to discuss the content and go through questions. This is followed by another self-study session before a final Zoom meeting to connect the dots and reflect on the day’s learnings.
“Trying to make a Zoom last for six hours wouldn’t work for either the instructor or the class,” says Funk. “It’s simply too long. So, our hybrid approach combines the best of both worlds. Instructors can cherry-pick the most important issues to cover in a live session and learners can tackle the rest of the content in their own time.”
Upskilling workers for the future
The enhanced webCampus platform has received a positive response from its members, with 8,000 learners currently enrolled and having completed thousands of courses.
“webCampus started out as a local offering, the brainchild of a local union branch back in the ’90s,” explains Funk. “Since then, we have been on a great trajectory. We now have more than 200 courses, and members are logging in from across the country to learn new skills and broaden their horizons.”
For example, more than 2000 members have enrolled in 15-minute, single-topic modules, while close to 1000 members have registered for Exploring Digital Skills, a course developed together with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship that combines digital literacy and IT skills.
“Basic digital skills such as email and word processing are a necessity now,” says Funk. “They’re key to our members progressing in almost any job. We’re here to support their development and help them have a fulfilling career.”
With Brightspace Data Hub, UFCW Canada has gained detailed insight into how members are engaging with webCampus: which courses are popular, how many people have completed them and more. “We’re using this data to identify where there’s room for improvement,” explains Funk. “If the completion rate for a course is low, we can see which pages people are struggling with and make adjustments to the content or layout to improve the experience.”
D2L offers quality products, sound engineering and excellent support, enabling us to provide a world-class education program that meets the needs of our members.Marv Funk, education director, UFCW