When the pandemic motivated us to develop an online version of our course, we were worried that it may not be as effective as our face-to-face courses. However, the feedback shows that the online course delivers significant improvement in how participants feel after completing the 8 session course. For those worst affected by their separations, we are seeing an even greater improvement in their wellbeing. Now we are confident that a move online was definitely the right decision.
The move to online
I never thought that I was a person to resist change but around five years ago when long term volunteer and leader of our Peterborough course, Tom Martin, suggested that we should try running a course online, I was not excited about it and nothing happened.
Then suddenly six months ago Covid-19 swept through the world and made face-to-face courses a dangerous scenario. With no other option, we leapt into the online world setting aside our doubts and questions such as “would people really talk in a small group online” with the hope that it would be ok and an online course would at least allow us to offer some support.
Restored Lives is now more accessible
As I write, we have three online courses under our belt and we have experienced an amazing surprise and perhaps even an improvement of the Restored Lives course in an online environment. It’s now obvious that people who found it difficult to travel to a physical course, find the online access brilliant – many parents with small kids, busy executives, guests with disabilities and many others find the simple access from a screen in their living room hugely convenient.
Guest seem to find it easier to open up
Even more remarkable is the openness, honesty and discussion that we are seeing online. There seems no difference to the in-person version of the course. Groups are still experiencing a non-judgemental safe space where the honesty of people’s stories quickly breeds more openness and deep connections. Perhaps because people are joining from the comfort and security of their own homes acts in the same way as the welcoming environments we aim to create at our face-to-face courses. Guests already feel at ease when they dial in and there’s no need to pluck up the courage to walk through the door, all they need to do is click on a link.
We have also found the use of WhatsApp groups outside the course sessions, builds an amazingly strong and supportive group dynamic. It gives guests the choice of when to communicate.
Courses are transformative
As ever, the stories from guests as they complete the courses are remarkable and show the life-transforming nature of the course. Here is feedback from one guest: “The course helped me to see a bigger better world out there, helped me get out of my sorry hole that was all about pity and hurt and anger about what has been done to me. Looking at how others had restored lives and were in such a healthier better more positive place than me, makes me want to get there and be there in the future. It has given me hope, a future and ways to go about doing that.”
Significant improvement in wellbeing
We are now also tracking some key personal indicators for guests and we ask them how they felt at the start of the online course and how they now feel on a scale between 1 and 10. On average, people come on the course and feel “just under 5 out of 10” but leave the course feeling “8 out of 10”, which is a significant improvement!
However, what is more encouraging is that those who have arguably the greatest need for the course are experiencing even greater improvement in how they feel. The data shows that for all those who gave an initial feeling rating of 5 and below, (which averaged out at 3.6 out of 10), moved up to an average of 7.6 out of 10 by the end of the course. That is real transformation.
I must go back and say sorry to Tom for being so slow to see the opportunity online courses offer! The online course makes Restored Lives even more accessible to people across the country and shows that, even for people in some of life’s hardest situations, that there is hope for moving forwards successfully.
Written by Erik Catenskiold – Trustee and Head of Restored Lives
Are you or is someone you know going through a breakup? Or perhaps they have been separated or divorced and are still struggling with the fallout? Click here to register for our next online course.
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