Healthcare compliances training and discussion blog

Archive for October, 2010

Readability and eLearning

There’s a lot of information out there about reading levels and readability indices, and what your target should be for an eLearning course. If you run your script through a readability tool and you don’t like the result, try applying one or more of these tips to your script then try again.

  • Be direct and concise. Get to the point right away, and look for ways to say the same thing in fewer words. This is great advice for many types of writing, and particularly important when designing training for busy adults. Two things in particular to watch for in training materials are sentences written in third person or passive voice, which are typically wordier and not as precise as first person or active voice.
    • Example of first vs. third person: “you” vs. “the employee”
    • Example of active vs. passive voice: “Always wear safety goggles when operating the saw.” vs. “Safety goggles should always be worn when the saw is in operation.”
  • Watch sentence length. An average of around 20 words per sentence is a good guideline to follow – but use variety in sentence length and structure to help hold your learner’s interest.
  • Provide context and transitions. This may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to reduce word count, but these are not “empty calories” in your course. Providing those vital connections between ideas greatly aids comprehension.
  • What DOESN’T need to be included? If learners don’t need to know it to meet the learning objectives of the course, why risk either boring an advanced learner or confusing a beginning learner? Leave it out, or include it only in a Job Aid.
  • Use informative graphics. A great way to improve a course is to try to replace as much of the screen text as possible with graphics. Not clip art or happy, smiling people kind of images, but graphics that clearly illustrate the concept, task, or behavior.



E-learning program for new graduate doctors to ensure safety prescription

A new software based program has recently been created for new graduate doctors to ensure they prescribe safely from day one on the wards.

The SCRIPT (Standard Computerised Revalidation Instrument for Prescribing and Therapeutics) project has brought together a team of experts from Aston University (UK) and Birmingham and Warwick Medical Schools (UK) to create this innovative, e-learning toolkit.

Doctors who have recently graduated from medical school have to prescribe safely from day one on the wards. Their task is made harder by the many new drugs that have been introduced, as well as the rapid throughput of patients who are often sicker and older and who are more likely to suffer adverse drug reactions (drug side effects).

Sub-optimal prescribing among new doctors in their Foundation Year 1 (FY1) stage is common, and can result in the underuse of effective medicines, adverse drug reactions and medication errors.

Up to a quarter of litigation claims in the NHS stem from medication errors (Source: An Organisation of Memory, 2000, London: The Stationery Office),therefore emphasis has now been placed towards ensuring that patients in hospitals have safe care by improving the knowledge and skills required for safe prescribing in FY1 doctors.

“Medical schools educate on the theoretical side of medicine, but actual prescribing in practice is very difficult’,” says Dr Philip Thomas, a Junior Doctor in the West Midlands.

The SCRIPT (Standard Computerised Revalidation Instrument for Prescribing and Therapeutics) project which was funded by the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority (SHA) has brought together a team of experts from Aston University (UK) and Birmingham and Warwick Medical Schools (UK) to create the innovative, e-learning toolkit in response to the challenges of safe prescribing.

Continue Reading


Apple Adds Special Education Section to the App Store

apple_logo_silver_oct10.jpgApple has created a custom area for the App Store titled “Special Education: Learning for Everyone.” The new section contains five subsections: Communication, Hearing, Language Development, Literacy & Learning, and Organization.

The apps featured include speech-to-text app Dragon Dictation, assisted hearing app iHearClearly, and handwriting tool iWriteWords, as well as a number of other gaming, reference, and productivity apps.


Mobile Learning for All Learners

itunes_specialeducation.jpgWhile cellphones in the classroom might not be routinely accepted, mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous as educational tools. And some educators have found the iPad in particular to be well-suited for Special Education programs, as it can provide multiple paths for engagement and expression for struggling learners and special needs students.

Until now, the lists of recommended app for Special Education have been scattered across educators’ blogs. So it’s promising to see the recognition in the App Store that this is an important market.




University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science going Mobile

From next year, the University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science will be moving towards mobile delivery, with all first-year students provided with iPads, and textbooks replaced by digital materials.  They will be the first Australian University to begin delivering in this way, and this is the first step towards an overhaul of their teaching strategies, including moving to fully online delivery of first-year Science courses from 2012, according to Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty. To help ensure that teaching materials and activities are compatible with the iPads, teaching staff will also be receiving the devices.

iPad in use

I have a modicum of skepticism about some aspects of this planned course of action, however.  Firstly, the focus on iPads might force thinking around mobile learning into a iPad-shaped box, rather than encouraging the development of mobile learning activities and resources to suit a wider range of devices.  This is already apparent in the kinds of materials they describe as being prepared for their iPads:

“The aim is to transfer all learning content to an electronic version which includes many currently printed textbooks for first-year students sometime in 2012.”

Aaargh.  Transferring learning content to computers, including textbooks, does not equate to e-learning.  Transferring learning content to mobile devices is unlikely to result in quality mobile learning.  The REAL task here should be to develop new learning activities and resources that target the required learning outcomes and utilise the affordances of mobile devices, rather than thinking that an electronic textbook on an iPad is somehow better that a paper-based textbook.  Instead, the focus appears to be on the *delivery* of content, rather than ways in which students can interact with, and create on, iPads:

“The online material will take a variety of forms with students being able to access lecture notes, audio, background documents and textbooks through tailored web-based apps. This is in addition to all the student services currently available through the MyUni website such as timetabling, video downloads, slides and email.”

THERE IS NOTHING NEW or innovative about ANY of those content sources or activities.  All that’s happening is that they’re being displayed on a shiny new device, instead of a laptop or a desktop computer, and they’re accessed through “app” buttons.  Contrast that philosophy with a learner-centric pedagogical model in which learning activities are developed that use key affordances of the iPad: for example, designing activities where students annotate or complete worksheets or experiments using an app like Noterize; or focusing on using mobile devices equipped with cameras to document science experiments or field trips using blogs, images, and video.

I hope the University of Adelaide will take time to consider how learning with technology is much more than learning ON technology.  A successful mobile learning strategy requires working with the inherant strengths and limitations of mobile devices to enhance learning and engagement – not just trying to do the same thing as before with the new tool!

World’s Best Classrooms Are Light on Technology

Smart phones, iPads, Microsoft Word: None of them are in the world's highest-performing classrooms. (Photo: Mark n Emma/Creative Commons)

American students need a 21st-century education to thrive in our 21st-century world.

That’s the premise behind a slew of initiatives to incorporate more technology into classrooms.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last week announced its $20 million Next Generation Learning Challenges to encourage the development of education technologies that will deepen student engagement.

“The kind of technological revolution that has transformed business, government, healthcare, and many other areas has not occurred in our schools,” Bill Gates wrote on his blog. “What’s needed now are creative, smart new solutions.”

Over at Slate, Amanda Ripley had an idea: If we want our kids to compete with students from the world’s top-performing countries, why not look to their best schools for inspiration?

The conventional wisdom might expect these high-achieving classrooms to look like futuristic learning centers brimming with laptops and interactive whiteboards.

Instead, Ripley discovered that classrooms in countries like South Korea and Finland look much like American classrooms have for the past 100 years: children sit behind rows of desks facing a teacher and a chalkboard.

“In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms,” said Andreas Schleicher, an education analyst for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  “It does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.”

South Korea consistently ranks among the top countries on international exams, and many Korean children use iPods and iPhones at home. The only computers they use at school are outdated PCs clustered in computer labs they visit once a week.

Still, Korea produces graduates who possess advanced math and science skills that are prized by today’s employers.

Ripley suggests Korea’s edge may be in its longer school days. Korean children attend school eight to nine hours each day, and then face parental pressure to study well into the night.

But in Finland, which ranked first in math and science among 30 OECD countries in 2006, kids have one less year of schooling than their American counterparts, do less homework, and rarely take standardized tests.

Perhaps the secret lies in teacher talent.

The recent McKinsey report found that teachers in countries like Singapore, Finland and Korea are recruited from the top third of their college classes. In the U.S., most teachers come from the middle tier or lower.

How do the best schools in the United States rank for technological advances?

Ripley visited several and found extraordinary teachers who coached their students to success using nothing more sophisticated than an overhead projector.

In the meatime, integrating technology into traditional classrooms is a growing trend in U.S. public schools.

Anthony G. Picciano, a professor of urban education at the City University of New York,estimated that 1 million elementary and high school students engaged in online coursework nationwide in 2007-08. That’s a 47 percent increase over the year before.

In New York City, where the Department of Education is spending nearly $7.2 million on technology-based learning programs for 13,000 students, teachers told The Wall Street Journalthat computers are helping them unlock the potential in students who were previously disengaged and difficult to reach.

Even the federal government is jumping on the technology bandwagon. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a speech last March:

“In the 21st century, schools can’t be throwbacks to the state of education 50, 20, or even 10 years ago… We must make the on-demand, personalized tech applications that are part of students’ daily lives a more strategic part of their academic lives.”

Is America’s focus on classroom technology a cure-all, or do we need to explore other avenues just as vigorously?



Panel: Troubles abound in online learning regulation

Difficulties in adopting national standards to regulate online education programs sparked a lively debate during a panel discussion at the Oct. 12 Presidents’ Forum on Online Learning in the 21st Century, hosted by Excelsior College.

The panel, moderated by Sally Johnstone of Winona State University, addressed the complexity of managing standards for online education programs across state lines. Panelists addressed struggles specific to their own states, as well as national issues to consider as the standards debate continues.

“I would characterize New York’s interest as being one of concern about the quality of education that New York residents receive, whether that education takes place in a traditional classroom setting or online,” said Byron Connell, associate commissioner in higher education for the New York State Education Department. “Therefore, our concern is that there be strong assurances of quality for online [education] programs across the country so we don’t sit there and fret over the quality of the education that our residents are engaging.”

David Dies, executive secretary for the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, echoed similar sentiments regarding standards for online education programs.

“It really boils down to a level of trust,” Dies said. “Do we have faith in the other states’ abilities, the functions that they’re performing, and can we in some way accept the work that they’ve done to satisfy our requirements?”

But regulating the industry has proven far more complex than some supporters originally thought.

“There are hundreds of online institutions. We don’t have the ability to perform as our statutes say we’re supposed to do, so we’ve had to find some creative ways to continue to perform our consumer protection responsibilities that are core to our operations,” said Dies.

In addition to the massive number of institutions offering online education programs, each state has different regulatory policies, making a blanket rule of law nearly impossible.

David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, is attempting to sort through the different attitudes toward online learning regulation.

“I’ve got two states that are what you might call accreditation junkies. They believe in pretty strong regulation of the for-profit sector,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of states that sort of do the job because they have to, and then I have three that are laissez-faire states. They don’t give a damn whether these institutions do much or not.”

And the lack of communication between the different states’ regulatory boards hampers the process, panelists said.

“There is an important issue not just in establishing some standards, but finding the right level of communication that these very different types of agencies and organizations within each of the states can actually utilize,” said Johnstone.

“I think that in New York we have a good notion of what we’re doing, and we have a good notion of what accrediting bodies are doing, but we have a very vague notion of what the other 49 states are doing,” said Connell.

“We’re such a diverse set of institutions and ways in which we govern ourselves [that] it’s hard to pull this together,” said Longanecker.

Not every online education program supports a set of universal online learning terms. Some for-profit institutions fear that these policies will just add another set of fees.

“Everything I’m hearing is just driving up my costs, which is bringing down my affordability, which is bringing down my access,” said Rich Schneider, president of Norwich University. “This is so redundant and so decentralized; it’s very, very expensive. … We are a quality institution, as many are. I just see that the role of the continued regulation is going contrary to what we’re trying to accomplish for affordability and access.”

But Longanecker said he sees this as a risk worth taking.

“The consequences of getting a bad education are so substantial, particularly the way students finance it today. That’s what raises particular attention to this; that this is considered a major opportunity in a person’s life, and if we do not serve them well, we are strongly affecting their capacity to have a good life,” Longanecker said.

Panelists also discussed the possibility of poor quality of education from institutions based outside of the United States.

“What do we do with the institutions that move to Jamaica and set up their distance learning from there?” asked Connell. “The 50 states can’t do anything about that. This is now an international issue that has to be addressed internationally, because we don’t have jammers on our borders to prevent online learning from being beamed in from other countries.”


Learning and Development Trends

The 21st century is ushering in the new social learning revolution. Today’s workers come from a variety of cultures and generations, and we must address the requirements of this diverse, global audience. Companies understand that the current trends are all about interaction. The following are some of the trends we’re seeing:

Webinars. Virtual classrooms will continue to expand and technology will become increasingly more sophisticated allowing more interaction than ever before. Instructors still hold classes, only the participants don’t have to be together.

Video. Low-end videos include those you see on YouTube. All you need is a camera and some basic editing savvy. High-end videos are expensive, but the cost can be justified for certain types of training. You can include pauses where learners interact or perform certain tasks, and make the experience very participatory.

Social networks and social learning. This involves sitting at your computer or mobile phone and interacting with others. Social networks are creeping into companies and many have embraced Twitter within their own organizations. Others have created home-grown internal social networks. In addition to instant messages (IM) and chats, these are other avenues for people to get information and answers to questions quickly.

3-D. Although this technology is new for L&D, it’s expected to become the next generation of training.

Podcasts and blogs. These are associated with more formal learning and are gaining strong footholds in the L&D repertoire.

Simulations and virtual labs. These are used mostly in technical and scientific learning. You can make a quick simulation, drop it into the learning experience, and learners experience a simulated lab.

Suitcase programs. Curriculum is created and taken to offices around the globe. Local trainers deliver the program and sometimes one or two facilitators travel with the program. Some programs incorporate video and videoconferencing.

Expertise locations. This is where subject matter experts (SMEs) within a company, regardless of where they’re located, will be called upon to share their special knowledge and skills.

Mentoring. Mentoring programs are adding a lot of zest to L&D as companies are providing mentoring for orienting new hires, bridging the multi-generational and cross-cultural divides, transitioning people into management roles, and spearheading succession planning.

Mobile. Mobile technology is still evolving for training purposes. Presently, what may work well on one mobile phone, may not work well on another. However, components of more complex learning will work on most mobile phones and are being used now.

Tag Cloud