Health agencies, systems, and state and local departments have never had so much technology at their fingertips. Training technology and online courses have developed just in time to meet the rising workforce of community health workers (CHWs). Now is when you want to move your training online.
Online learning is also a logical way to train teams of all sizes while containing the coronavirus outbreak. Workshops and conferences are either canceled, such as Northwest Rural Health Conference, or going virtual, such as The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), in the wake of COVID-19.
[Related: The Top CHW Conferences of 2020]
Moving training online also means you can quickly get staff up to speed on requirements and new skills exactly when you need it. A course on immunizations, hygiene, or home visit safety can sit at the ready for exactly when CHWs need skill refreshers or new information to deliver clients.
“The reality is that remote work cultures are on the rise as more individuals and team leadership have come to understand the value and advantages of this work structure,” says Robert Glazer, a capacity-building and leadership consultant and author of the book Elevate. He gives tips on migrating teams to work from home in a recent article.
CHWs appreciate being able to learn online, according to the learner feedback through CHWTraining courses and our partner courses. Being able to use forum posts, for example, can keep the conversation flowing over the entire duration of a course. And many like being able to review materials whenever they want a refresher.
“I like that the forum posts were interactive,” said one health promoter who took CHWTraining’s Diabetes and Prediabetes. “They’re a good way to communicate your thoughts as the course progressed.”
The motivations for transitioning from face-to-face to online are clear. Making the leap to launch educational technology can be done gradually, all at once, or in a limited way.
So how do you know where to start when launching a CHW ed-tech program?
Steps to Moving Training Online
1) Assess online training tools.
Start by assessing what sorts of tools you have for online training. This makes your shift easy, because the infrastructure is already there. It pays to ask around, because there may be more available to you than you think.
We regularly work with clients who share an office with others with robust and useful training tools that aren’t shared. This happens regularly when programs are grant funded. The grant might support breast and cervical cancer screenings, but not HIV/AIDS client support. But both areas depend on outreach engagement skills, so why not share when you can?
Once you start asking around, you might find others have a full-fledged learning management system (LMS) that’s used by your organization for everything from HIPAA training to clinician training. Or you can open up your own subscription more targeted courses through CHWTraining to others who can use it.
Expand your search for training tools to include other less-obvious resources, including:
- Ways to have discussions (Slack, message boards, group chat)
- Webinar technology (WebEx, Zoom, Skype)
- Video recordings (YouTube, Vimeo, CDC)
2) Begin with blended learning.
You split the difference between keeping some training in person and pushing other topics online for 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 CHW and 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 newfound skills with their colleagues. Other topics, such as documentation skills, convert easily to an online format.
3) Assign coaches or peer learning partners.
Many states with CHW certificate programs require learners to complete some degree of field training. Even if your employer doesn’t include this requirement, it’s still a great idea to pair a learner with someone who has experience on the job. Set up a system where supervisors or coaches can guide recent participants through using those foundational skills on the job.
This gives learners a chance to apply what they learn online to a real-life setting. The real benefit of having courses online is that learners can revisit courses while they’re doing fieldwork. It also makes it easier to sneak in training between visits with clients or on weekends and evenings.
Moving training online does have many moving parts. But it can be manageable, save costs, and be useful for CHWs. Ready to take your training to the next level? Contact us for a free consultation.