Offer a better online training experience for health staff by adapting to the needs of each learner. Here's how.
It's a common misconception that each online course is the same as the one before it. Courses are made up of people, and everyone is different. This is especially true for community health workers, who may be skilled or unskilled, experienced or new, expert English speakers or expert in another language. Your training program and your facilitator must be adaptable to each training session if you want to keep such a diverse group of people engaged. These are seven common hurdles in online training programs and some easy solutions.
1. Pepper your material and discussions with knowledge-checks
Frequent knowledge-checks, which are much shorter than quizzes, can help keep learners engaged and also help them determine if they understand the material or not. These are most useful with dense material. E-learning tools you can use are polls, questions on the discussion board or even a question on one page followed by the answer on the next.
2. Break a big class into small discussion groups
Large groups of health workers are hard for a single facilitator to manage, and they also make it easy for some learners to lurk and become forgotten. Pose on-the-fly discussion questions that will get students speaking with each other. You might form groups by specialty (diabetes people vs. cancer pre-screening people), region (clinic or geographic area) or expertise (seasoned nurses with new CHWs).
3. Invite guest facilitators
Long courses can become monotonous, and--let's face it--not every facilitator connects with every learner. Address both issues by inviting a guest to answer questions in the forum for a week or host a one-time web chat. This is an excellent way to include subject matter experts from different programs, departments or agencies.
4. Send pre-written messages
Course participation will stay at a consistently higher level if you send pre-written reminders or encouragement throughout the course. Send messages when the course has begun, when new sections open, at the half-way point, when certificates will be ready, etc.
5. Dangle carrots to eliminate drop-outs
Fatigue often sets in after a few weeks of course, and that's when learners drop out. Resort to bribery to keep learners logging in. Carrots include: completion certificates, equipment they can use on the job such as stethoscopes or notebooks, last-day-of-class party.
6. Schedule a web chat or call for new material
When the topics you're offering change significantly in the middle of a course, it can help flow and engagement to schedule a web chat or conference call to address the new material. This will signify a shift in directions and give participants a chance to ask any last questions about previous content.
For example, the CHW and patient navigator training from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health offers a mid-point phone call to launch new material that's focused on health topics, rather than core skills.
7. Stockpile good questions
Even the best facilitators can feel unenthusiastic about leading online discussions sometimes. Address burnout by having a template of questions at hand that only require a cut and paste, and put the responsibility to reply on participants. A few examples are below. Save these for your next course.
- Everyone brainstorm a few possible solutions to that.
- Please give an example of that.
- Did you ever experience something like that before? Provide details.
- Explain how you arrived at that conclusion.
- Say how you see that relating to [insert topic here].
- What more can you say about that?