Start Small When Switching from In-Person to Online Training

Blended learning for health workers

Deciding to train health workers in an online classroom versus a traditional in-person setting is the easiest part of the undertaking. Virtual learning is an easy answer to educating a quickly growing workforce that has restrictions on travel, time and money.

The difficult part is in the execution. Most training programs for healthcare teams offer live instruction, and converting those training materials into an online format is about as easy is it is to move from a house you’ve lived in for decades.

Begin with blended learning.

An easy way to begin is not to convert everything online. Keep a portion of your in-person training exactly how it is, and adopt a blended learning strategy. Blended learning mixes the best of training delivery methods to reach a variety of learning needs and varying subject matter. A live session allows for participants to meet each other and make connections with instructors and classmates that result in better retention. It can also be helpful for delivering material that’s better suited to in-person instruction.

For example, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Patient Navigation Online Course includes a 10-week online element that begins and concludes with face-to-face teaching. The instructors cover such topics as communication techniques in the group, which gives participants a chance to try out new found skills in a live setting. Other topics, such as documentation skills, convert easily to an online format.

Keep online training focused.

Many health-based organizations new to online learning fall into the trap of thinking they have to give learners everything that they previously included with in-person training. Not everything in the trainer’s toolkit needs to be delivered online.

Too many reading assignments and activities can take up too much time, and learners spend more time in the online course than applying their new job skills. Information overload can also be overwhelming, and some learners will lose focus and simply give up, even if the training is part of their job requirement.

Program administrators should remember to have faith that health employees will learn on the job. The reason you present them with theories and tools is so they can apply them in the community or clinical setting.

Set up a system where supervisors or coaches can guide recent participants through using those foundational skills on the job. Make sure they’re acquainted with all the training materials so they know what to evaluate for knowledge gain.

Follow these two tips, and you’ll find that switch to e-learning will result in a group of people curious and excited about a new learning format.

[Photo credit: Stephan Röhl on Flickr]