Getting started with online guiding and virtual unit meetings

Try out virtual, online guiding instead of in-person meetings

Although we’ve needed to put all our in-person unit meetings on hold, we know a lot of our members are still keen to meet, stay connected with girls and volunteers, try new activities and work towards programme badges and awards.

For those who’d like to try something new, and who want to maintain the community and connection they find in guiding, we’re here to help.

It’s important we continue to keep all our members safe, even when they are staying home.

Here are some things to think about if you do want to take your guiding online and keep in touch with girls.

Remember – guiding using digital tools in this way should be treated as an activity outside of the unit meeting, so you’ll need to get written permission from parents for girls to join in.

None of our members need to move their guiding online – we understand if you’d rather take a break until you can return to your meeting space. It’s important that we all take care of ourselves and our families at the moment.

There are two different ways to do online guiding, talk to your leadership team to decide which would work better for your unit.

Solo online guiding

Solo online guiding doesn't involve any group or unit meetings. As a leader or volunteer you can choose an activity and share this with the girl’s parents or carers, or directly with young members age 14 and over

You can do this through instant messaging, social media or emails – check our digital communications policy before you start. 

Remember – you should never be in a one-to-one conversation with a young member through messaging or email.

You could share a tutorial video, a written guide to an activity, a great story you found, an audio guide or a podcast. You could even make your own videos to share your activity ideas and instructions.

Your unit can then do the activity in their own time, following the instructions you’ve shared. When they are ready to show their results and share with you what they’ve done, they can take photos. These can be sent back to you by their parents/carers, or by girls aged 14 and over.

Group online guiding

Group guiding will bring girls and volunteers together digitally, so it’s more like running a virtual unit meeting.

You can use video calls, audio conference calls or broadcast video to connect with a group or unit, and share conversations and activity ideas. It can also be a great way to manage volunteer meetings when you can’t all be in the same space.

These group calls might take a bit of practice to get working for your unit, so give yourself time to explore the technology before you get started.

You could try following the same activity, at the same time, over video chat. But there are a few more things to consider if you choose to use video or group chat.

For this kind of group call, we recommend girls use their parent or carer's account, and that a parent or carer is nearby throughout the meeting to help or join in.

You might want adults to ‘drop off’ their girls at the meeting like they would in person, so you can make sure that young members have an appropriate adult nearby if they need a hand, and to give you a moment to talk to parents and carers if you need to.

Things to think about

No matter which method you use for getting guiding online, you’ll need to make sure you’re keeping all our members safe. If you have any worries about running meetings online, then it’s okay to just wait until in-person meetings can restart. No volunteer or member has to do online guiding.

Safeguarding is at the heart of everything we do in Girlguiding, and it’s the responsibility of all of us, both online and offline. Make sure you check our safeguarding policy before trying any online activity with girls or other volunteers. And our code of conduct also applies to online behavior.

All the things you do in your unit to keep girls safe still apply when we go online. So don’t forget that you need at least two leaders joining the call – one should have at least Level 3 of A Safe Space training, and at least one volunteer needs to have a current DBS/AccessNI/PVG check. And you should do a risk assessment for activities.

As always, there should be no one-to-one contact between a volunteer and a young member through digital tools or messages.

Location and behaviour

If you’re going to use video to try group guiding, then think about the room you’re in and what might be visible in the background – decoration, objects or even other people. Your space needs to be suitable for the young members to see – a safe space as we say in Girlguiding.

If you’re calling from home and have other people around, make sure they are dressed appropriately and know how to behave when you are talking to young members. Think about asking them to stay out of the background of your chat. Some tools allow you to blur out the background of your call.

Young members should not do video calls from their bedrooms and girls under 14 need to have parents or adult carers with them if they want to join a video chat. Their parent or carer can stay nearby in the same room, or can join in the meeting.

It might take a while to get used to meeting in a group this way. Work with the girls in your unit to decide on some rules – like treating each other with respect and making sure everyone has a chance to speak. If you have a lot of girls on a call, ask them to think about how they can join in the conversation without interrupting each other, could they do a hand signal if they have something to say or hold up a sign with their name on?

Age and parent/carer involvement

An appropriate adult, like a parent or carer, should be in the room with young members during video or conference calls.

You should ask parents if they would like to join in too. Explain to them how you’ll be meeting, how often you want to meet and what they need to do to support their child’s guiding experience.

Do remember that, like all of us, parents, carers and family members are going to have a lot on their mind at the moment and might be juggling many responsibilities. Guiding at home should always be fun and not at all compulsory for girls or their families.

Lots of digital services and websites have an age requirement, for example on most social media sites you need to be over 13 to make an account. Check the terms and conditions of services to make sure they are suitable for the girls in your unit. If the girls in your unit are under the age limit of the tool you want to use, then their parents or carers must set up the required accounts and remain nearby through the meeting.

Make it as simple as you can for girls to get involved, and think about how you make it easy, accessible and inclusive for as many girls as possible.

Internet and devices

Not everyone has the same access to the internet, and with lots of people working from home even well-connected homes might have some trouble getting online.

When thinking about online guiding, think about what devices and connection girls might be able to use – you might want to talk to parents about this to help you plan what you’ll use.

And remember, if people are using mobile data rather than wifi connection, video can use up a lot, so be careful to make sure you and young members don’t end up spending a lot of money on extra data.

Sharing videos and activities

Be careful with the materials you share with your unit – make sure they really are suitable for the age group you are working with.

With videos, you should watch them all the way through before sharing them, just so you can be confident that all the content is okay. Parents and carers should watch videos with young members, so they can keep an eye out for any unwanted adverts or recommended videos.

And be careful sharing video in group video chats – it’s better to ask your unit to watch the video separately and then rejoin the group, as watching a video through a group chat can cause problems with the technology.

Be considerate of the fact that people can only leave the house for essential shopping. Pick your activities wisely so girls won’t need any new or unusual materials, or think about how activities can be adapted to suit what is in the house.

If you can let parents and carers know in advance what activities you’ll be doing, that will help them prepare the time, space and materials that will be needed.

Managing information

Some online systems need you to share personal data and other information. Take a look through their terms and condition and check our managing information policy, digital communications policy, and social media policy to make sure they are suitable for guiding.

Some tools automatically record calls and video – think about whether this is right for your meeting, where you will store the files and for how long. Make sure you have checked the settings of the platform you are using so you don’t automatically share data to the cloud. Also make sure you check the photo and video consents of your young members on GO, as you might not have permission to record video of all your members.

Here’s some tools you might want to look at when deciding how to try online guiding. They have different benefits and features, so think about which might work best for you and your unit.

Do check these platforms own websites, as many of them are changing their features and offers to help and support people during coronavirus.

Zoom 

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Interactive sessions, screen sharing, video calling and in-meeting chat.

Bad for: Longer chats – there's a 40-minute limit for group calls on free accounts – but you can talk one-to-one with other volunteers for as long as you like. You and your members will need to download an app to get Zoom working.

Zoom meetings can be 'zoombombed'  by uninvited guests, who take over the meeting and display offensive or inappropriate images and video. You can protect your Zoom meeting from uninvited guests by changing your meeting settings to:

  • allow only signed-in users to join.
  • lock the meeting.
  • remove unwanted or disruptive participants.
  • prevent removed participants from rejoining.
  • turn off file transfer.
  • turn off annotation.
  • prevent participants from screen sharing.

Age limit: 18 and over

YouTube LiveStream 

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Sharing ready-made videos and content made by you or your unit, share livestream with up to 50 people.

Bad for: To join in everyone needs an active Google account. 

Age limit: 13 and over

Google Drive

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Working together.

Bad for: Not fully interactive, so you’d need to use another tool to add screen sharing or video.

Age limit: 13 and over for an individual account. Children under 13 can create an account through Family link.

Dropbox

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Sharing documents and images – you can get 2GB of storage for free.

Bad for: Interaction and video – it’s hard to chat through Dropbox.

Age limit: 13 and over.

Google Hangouts

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Group messaging, screensharing, video chat, interactive sessions and you can join without having Google account.

Bad for: Hard to share documents and files.

Age limits: 13 and over for an individual account. Children under 13 can create an account through Family link. 

Microsoft Teams 

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Interactive sessions, live-stream, screensharing, in-meeting chat and video chat.

Bad for: Everyone will need to download the programme, and you might need to pay for a licence to use it.

Age limit: 13 and over

Skype

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Up to 25 people can chat together with video or audio, screensharing, free, in-meeting chat.

Bad for: Sharing documents and files.

Age limit: 13 and over.

Facebook Live 

Read their terms and conditions.

Good for: Live-streaming video.

Bad for: Privacy – you have to be friends if you don’t want to share publicly.

Age limit: 13 and over.

 

 

 

Any other questions?

If you have specific questions about running online guiding, you can get in touch and we can help with advice and guidance.

We're not able to give any tech advice or help you with using specific digital tools. If you have technical questions it's best to contact customer services for the tool you're using.

For online safeguarding help, contact [email protected].

For questions about running unit meetings online, get in touch with [email protected].