A Free Online Course for Frontline Human Services Staff

The Situation

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, with input from GLP, created an exciting and practical new framework called GPDR/R (Goal Plan Do Review/Revise) that takes the latest brain research on how adults behave and applies it in a human services setting to help people achieve their goals. It draws on insights about Executive skills and other aspects of brain and behavioral science. Executive skills are the foundational skills we use to plan, control our emotions, and monitor our progress. We can increase the chance that we achieve our goals by tapping our stronger skills, reducing demand on our weaker skills, and building on them with practice.

While there are several goal achievement frameworks and models out there, many of these models are proprietary – making them inaccessible to cash-strapped human services programs. GPDR/R is free, focuses on adults, and addresses the larger issue of how poverty and systemic oppression can impact goal achievement.  

The Journey 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities invited Global Learning Partners to take what we know about how adults learn and craft a self-paced online course that frontline staff with busy schedules can complete in just a few hours a week, over 6 to 8 weeks. To make the course free and accessible to all programs, we had to get creative and build our learning design with low-to-nocost web tools.  

GLP used a learning-centered approach to create a course that includes solo time (to read, watch, and reflect), small group work (to discuss, practice, and get feedback), and a downloadable workbook (for participants to reflect and take notes in throughout the course.) 

To elevate the impact of this course, we also created a companion packet for managers and supervisors to support their staff and to explore the implementation of this approach on a program-wide basis. 

The Impact 

While the course is still new and has not been used on a wide scale basis, we field-tested with three programs across the country. Each field-test program reported that completing the course shifted their own approach to goal achievement and transformed the way they interacted with clients. 

Human service programs now have access to the latest science in executive function and goal achievement, so they can support positive change not only at the level of the individual, but also at the program and system-level. 

Many thanks to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities with LaDonna Pavetti as lead for their leadership in this innovative project.