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H807 – Accessible online learning for Health Care professionals

February 20, 2011

To start with a quote from a student  cited in the case study.

‘I am loving the course, but there is so less time’.

Background and Context

My saying with all my courses I have finished so far, that there is so less time. And I am already running slightly behind now having not finished the reading of the case studies, the summaries and commenting on my colleagues blogs. Well, I did 50 percent of it, but I need to catch up with the missing 50 percent and I haven’t even started with Activity 3 – Promoting innovations were we are asked to produce a summary of the JISC case study collection in the form of a brief report 😦

An increase in demand for diabetes training as a result of the NSF (National Service Framework), the need to provider broader access to training lead to the development of an online version of the course. Initially designed to assist Health Care Professionals (HCP) in the implementation of the NSF for diabetes, it is now accessed from students around the globe who appreciate the flexible accessibility, which safes time and money contrary to face-to-face courses, but also the different communication channels that facilitate communication and the quality of the course material providing access to both literature and policy and its applicability to their situation. WebCT was the technology used and Dreamweaver was used to build the course. Diabetes Education Online (DEOL) was delivered to students enrolled after staff WebCT training. About 10-15 students are in each cohort and one lecturer provides module leadership and teaching with another lecturer/practitioner. The course design emphasizes on constructivism, interactivity, critical reflection and all forms of online communication, including email, chat rooms and discussion boards.

Tangible Benefits

Here a list of the main benefits, including those already mentioned.

  • cheaper, easier access, time-saving and more flexible as face-to-face courses
  • high quality of course material
  • very good assignments demonstrate that learning outcomes were met
  • communication tools facilitate interaction
  • external examiners, validation panels and service user forums commented all positively on the e-learning course
  • students evaluation reveal great student satisfaction, students report that their IT and communications skills had improved, adding to their personal and professional development and transferable skills
  • success of the DEOL facilitated further development of e-learning courses

Possible disadvantages/drawbacks

Gaining understanding between academic and technology staff in the development phase was time-consuming and access to the helpdesk was not always successful. One major disadvantage was that not enough time was assigned to the lecturers, but the feedback from the lecturer to facilitate discussion and critical reflection is seen as crucial for the success of the course. Lecturers also observed that the discussion board was not so often used and that not all students attended the chat session. Early introduction, greater explanation and activities to familiarize students with the tools were introduced. Besides that minor drawbacks,the increasing numbers of students highlight the success of the elearning course.

The author Carolyn Gibbon states that ‘the Internet provide fantastic potential for educational innovation, but without the employment of learning theory appropriate to the medium the potential will be lost. Gibbon also claims that continual evaluations of all courses aspects are essential for each course to evolve. It is also necessary to respond not only to changes in relevant policy and evidence base, but also to the findings of the evaluation. The feedback from the continual evaluations can direct further developments of the program and also provide insight into the relative strengths and weaknesses of the facilitator. Gibbon also recognize that further training and resources, including staff allocated time may be needed to further improve the quality of the course.

This case study shows a ‘new’ aspect of innovation. It does not only add value to the learners experience and brought a change and even facilitated further changes towards a greater learning initiative, but Gibbon links innovation with an appropriate learning theory. That confirms the view of our tutor group that innovations are not necessarily about technology, but evolve in association with the appropriate learning theory.

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One Comment
  1. samantha permalink

    I really like that Gibbon recognises the need for evolution of training. It mirrors what would happen in a face to face environment, where lessons would be learned and training adapted accordingly. My experience of e-learning is often that it is static and there is no evaluation process behind it.

    I think this is a positive element that I have seen through many of the case studies – that innovation breeds the on going need to evaluate and improve.

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