GiGi’s Training Website, a Groundbreaking Virtual Learning Management System

For just over a year now, staff and volunteers across all Playhouse locations, both on-site and virtual, have been successfully using the GiGi’s Training Website. This innovative leap forward has become an integral key to the future of educating successful, confident individuals with Down syndrome by allowing coordinators, volunteers, board members, employees, and all users to become successful and confident!

Conversations about creating a universal, consistent platform for training were sparked approximately five years ago, and through researching other Learning Management Systems, GiGi’s chose a platform that would provide more flexibility. So, construction began. Prior to this and up to just a few years ago, training was distributed across a network of 55 locations and therefore lacked consistency. This method left a lot of room for interpretation for both trainers and trainees and the chances of not retaining vital information were high. This process also left gaps of inconsistency across GiGi’s Playhouse locations nationally, making it difficult for both participants and volunteers who relocate, to easily pick up where they left off at their former Playhouse.

There was an attempt, a few years ago, to alleviate the inefficiency that volunteers were feeling, by placing the training online. Subject matter experts created replicable training content and videos and new volunteers, coordinators, staff, and more were able to use a document, containing URL links, which would guide them to specific training assets. While this was a step towards consistency, moving to a centralized, all-inclusive platform, became even greater as the pandemic presented its ongoing myriad of challenges.

When thinking of getting a state-of-the-art platform, the answers to any questions of who, what, when, and where were easy, but it was the how that presented the greatest challenge. A new platform was going to be expensive, and the funding wasn’t available until an absolute dream came true! Enter the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, whose giving platforms support the disability community. Mitsubishi stepped in and provided the funding to support the initial research for viable platforms and the training to our volunteers that is now the GiGi’s Training Website. Thanks to their wonderful, generous grant, this virtual program helps change lives every day.

Practically overnight, thousands of staff and volunteers across all Playhouse locations on the ground and on the web were able to enroll in a training journey that is unique to their individual roles. This training aligns with an individual’s own schedule and pace, allowing them to digest and retain vital information at a much higher level. As one volunteer puts it, The training has made it very easy to learn how to do my job because I can always go back to anything I had trouble with.”

Another major benefit to the new platform is that training certifications can easily be tracked for each trainee, allowing for much more consistent management of the trainees’ progress. Training modules can also be moved and updated, assuring that new technology, methods, and educational assets are always available. With over 400 lessons in the GiGi’s Training Website today, this is only going to continue growing.  This gives the user access to unlimited information at their fingertips, and if they move from one Playhouse to another, or from one role to another, the same information will be available at their new location/role. This makes for vital consistency for both volunteers and participants.

The future has been bright from the moment Nancy Gianni opened the door to the very first GiGi’s Playhouse location. With innovations like the implementation of this groundbreaking training platform, that future continues to shine brighter than the sun! It is as warm and electric as every hug ever given by every excited GiGi’s Playhouse participant. Perhaps that is why our friends at Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation stepped forward, allowing all of this to happen. As a 99% volunteer-run organization, GiGi’s Playhouse could not be prouder to provide a program that helps them to help us.


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