eLearning For Continuing Professional Development: 6 Best Practices

Using eLearning For Continuing Professional Development

What do real estate agents, teachers, and barbers have in common? They all require continuing professional development. Professionals in hundreds of fields must meet continuing education requirements to stay current in their fields and to maintain their professional licenses or certifications. eLearning is a great fit for continuing education because busy working professionals can fit it into their schedules more easily than traditional classroom courses. On the other hand, professionals in these fields may be more skeptical about it than workers in office-based jobs.

In this article, I'll share 6 lessons drawn from an academic study of 640 nurses' opinions about eLearning in continuing education published in the journal Home Health Care Management & Practice. Although the study was conducted among home health care nurses, you might find these ideas useful when designing continuing education for other professions with similar demands.

1. Let Them Know What To Expect Ahead Of Time

Most office-based workers are accustomed to eLearning by now, but this may not be the case for professionals in other fields. To get them more comfortable, communicate how the system works and how to get technical help before you ask them to log in for the first time. An easy way to meet this need is to create a screencast demonstrating how to log in, register for courses, and request help. A printable job aid wouldn't hurt, either.

2. Make Sure The Organization Is Ready

Although some professionals work independently, most work inside an organization (e.g., hospital, agency, clinic). Before rolling out eLearning for these professionals, make sure their organizations can support them. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are there enough computers or tablets for your learners to complete training? Will they actually be available for eLearning, or will the core functions of the organization always take precedence?
  • Are the computers or tablets located in a location that allows the learner to concentrate, or are they placed at busy desks or stations where interruptions are bound to derail learning?
  • Is the technology compatible with your offerings? If the organization is running an outdated browser to maintain compatability with legacy systems (which is very common), will your offerings render correctly?
  • Does the organization provide learners with technical support? If so, will the help desk actually support eLearning offerings, or are they limited to supporting core systems?
  • Does management provide learners with the necessary time to complete training or are they expected to magically create more time in the day to cram in learning?

3. Keep The Interface Simple

Most professionals already have their hands full dealing with the complex systems and software required for their jobs. They have very little patience left over for "clever" eLearning navigation schemes or clunky Learning Management System user interfaces. Make it insanely easy for the learner to get to the content quickly and stay focused on it. In short, cut that extraneous cognitive load with a vengeance!

4. Get Theoretical

The holy grail of most training is behavior change, so we tend to focus on practical content and cut out all the "nice to know" stuff. For most professionals, though, the "nice to know" stuff is really "need to know", too. Professionals must know the theoretical underpinnings of what they're doing, so provide a balance of theoretical and practical material.

5. Test Them

A a rule, learners don't like tests. For many professionals, on the other hand, testing is a way of life. They're tested in school, tested for board exams, tested for licenses and certifications, and tested for renewals. For most professionals, a course isn't real unless it ends with a test. Give them a traditional end-of-course test and give them specific feedback on what they learned and what they need to review.

6. Connect Them

A profession is more than just a body of knowledge - it's also a community of practitioners. Unfortunately, many professionals are isolated from their peers. Adding a social element to your course will give them a much-appreciated opportunity to connect with others. In addition, including input from real-life practitioners will add instant credibility to your content.

Summary

Designing effective eLearning for continuing education is not so different from designing effective eLearning for anyone else. Just remember a few tips. First, give the learners a heads up on the system and technical support before asking them to log in. Second, make sure their organizations can give them the time and resources they need to learn. Third, keep the interfaces as simple as possible so learners can focus on the content. Fourth, balance theoretical and practical materials. Fifth, include a traditional end-of-course test when possible. And finally, give them an opportunity to connect with other professionals.

 

Reference:

  • Home Nurses' Opinions Toward eLearning in Continuing Education, in Home Health Care Management & Practice, 27(4), 216-223.
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