Friday Feature: RCM of Washington’s New Online Teaching Initiatives
This week’s Friday Feature, focuses on the new and innovative ways that RCM has continued their education and outreach efforts during this pandemic. On Monday June 13th, RCM concluded their first cohort of the #ReadytoWork Virtual Job Readiness Program. Four students receiving services from DC’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) completed a 6 week, 6 session, virtual job readiness program where they gained in-depth knowledge about professionalism, job discovery, setting and achieving goals, job search skills, resume building, financial responsibility, rights and accommodations in the workplace and much more. “We were trying to make it feel as normal as possible without being face to face,” said Erica Thomas, RCM’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, “We had to think about how we could make sure people are building relationships with each other and the staff.” To ensure this relationship building occurred along with learning the job readiness material, orientation included getting-to-know-you activities as well as determining people’s learning styles, so the coordinators could adjust their material. Despite being fully online, RCM established a sense of trust amongst participants and teachers so students could feel comfortable opening up and learning together
The first order for RCM was ensuring that online learning was accessible to everyone. “How do you make things go virtual when people don’t have what they need? And on top of that, how do we make sure they have a grasp of how to use it?” Erica Thomas stated. To combat this problem, RCM ensured that all participants had secure internet connections and access to a device. They also included zoom basics training at the beginning of the program to ensure everyone had the technological literacy to participate fully. Despite the challenges online learning posed, the #ReadytoWork program proved to be a great success. When asked for their biggest takeaways, one student responded, “Talking about disabilities and how people learn differently” and another indicated that, “Learning more about getting a job and keeping a job.” was critical. To ensure that their newfound knowledge yields results, RCM’s three instructors keep in regular contact with program graduates via email or phone, providing support and checking on their job search progress.
Along with their #ReadytoWork program, RCM had two other recent education initiatives. RCM of Washington Advocates, its Chief Innovation Officer and its Education and Outreach Specialist were invited by Dr. Kim Bullock – Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Georgetown University – to participate in a 3-part panel discussion with Georgetown University students interested in Disability Studies and pursuing studies in medicine. Georgetown students asked the advocates questions surrounding the topics of stereotypes, employment, sexual health, navigating the healthcare system, advocacy work and more. The sessions were very well received, with students saying that they enjoyed the energy and interacting with the advocates, and that the information they gained would benefit them both personally and professionally.
Lastly, RCM developed an on-line version of its DSP Academy where five students learned the necessary skills to secure employment as a direct support professional, including person-centered planning, community mapping, professional workplace behavior and more. Though they were not able to receive full certification due to the online nature of the program, RCM will follow-up with serious candidates on completing their crisis prevention training and getting them into the workforce. Through this pandemic, RCM has continued to provide safe and effective instruction, showing their innovative thinking and continued commitment to their community.