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eLearning and you: Impact and Possibilities for eHealth

Added on 28 Aug 2012
Last updated on 28 Aug 2012

Authors: By Joaquin Blaya, PhD, and Terry Hannan; Reviewed by Marie Connelly

A key challenge in providing healthcare and health IT in resource-poor settings is the lack of training and trained personnel. There are many reasons for this: the high cost of training, especially in remote areas; the fact that trained personnel usually move to urban areas; and the lack of education and opportunities in rural areas. One strategy to reduce these problems is eLearning: providing training and other educational possibilities online.

The rise of e-learning centers, virtual classrooms, and open-source materials (eLearning) is one of the largest growing sub-sectors of education. The amount spent in eLearning is forecasted to exceed $69 billion worldwide by 2015. A popular eLearning platform, Moodle, one of a number of open-source eLearning platforms, has over 65,000 registered sites and sees some 1,500 new ones every month.

This Expert Panel focused on how eLearning affects education and learning, as well as the possibilities it holds for development and training both at the personal and organizational levels for those of us working in global health IT.

Key Points

  • For professionals, much more important than structured learning, is learning on case-by-case basis. There is a need for online forums where doctors and other health professionals can interact and discuss specific cases.
  • Most Continuing Medical Education (CME) activities for doctors are sponsored by industry. There is a need for unbiased learning. One solution offered could be providing peer-reviewed information such as eMedicine from Medscape.
  • The biggest challenges of eLearning are how to tailor the material for an eLearning format and to the students, as well as how to evaluate the impact of eLearning courses and programs.
  • Some recommendations for developing eLearning courses included:

- Creating curricula with clear objectives. Screen based interaction quickly generates patterns of behavior and tunnel vision. Reminders about objectives and fresh dialogue will help to keep everyone on track.
- Encouraging peer participation to foster a group dynamic. This requires educators to foster active engagement, and to use tools not only for outbound messaging but also to identify less active students.
- Tool and platform choices are important. Make sure to conduct testing and dry runs before bringing in students. Subjecting them to an online experiment is a surefire way to quickly lose interest.
- Learning ("e-learning" or not) is specific to context.
- As with any development project, the mantras "know thy user" and "you are not thy user" are important to keep in mind.
- Simply digitizing learning material will not result in better learning outcomes. They must be restructured and adapted for this new context.

  • The panel also had recommendations for hospitals, health centers and Ministries of Health looking to use eLearning within their organizations:

1. The drive and need must come from the inside. Culture eats strategy for lunch.
2. There has to be benefit for the user. Adding more work for an already busy staff when they see little to no discernible benefit will be fatal.
3. Find champions, educate, and build the business case for e-Learning of Health IT.
4. Make sure there is a plan to find, develop or modify learning materials so that they will resonates with users.
5. Have something tangible to kick off the program. Make sure that after employees get excited about Health IT e-Learning, they can actually get started with something.

Key References

Enrich the GHDonline Knowledge Base
Please consider replying to this discussion with the following information

  • Have you taken a health IT online course that you would recommend to others?
  • Is there an online health IT resource that you use all the time?
  • From your experience, what are other key components of successful eLearning platforms?

Download: 08_28_12_eLearning_Discussion_Brief_En.pdf (98.5 KB)