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Archive for October, 2011

WRITING FOR ELEARNING


Writing for eLearning represents an interesting challenge for people who aren’t used to writing for eLearning. This blog touches on some of the basics of writing for eLearning and provides some simple suggestions on how to make your prose more effective when it hits the web.

Remember that telling is not training.

As much as some people might want to cling to this notion, telling someone something once does not constitute training. Training, at a minimum, should include some sort of practice activities so learners get a chance to noodle around the new content as it makes connections with other ideas in their heads.

Use stories to make training more real.

I’m not saying that you should be out there trying to write the Great American Novel in the form of an eLearning class (although that is a pretty cool concept). Tell the story in terms of the learner’s universe. Don’t provide a list of tasks and expect learners to remember what they are and when to use them. Instead, use common work tasks learners already do, and present the new content in that context. It helps to include transitional materials that connect one part of a lesson with the next.

To do this sort of connecting (see the way I connected the preceding paragraph with this one?), use summaries at the end of lessons that say things like, “Now that you’ve completed the XYZ task, you’ve created the desired output. In the next lesson, you’ll see how to apply that output to the 123 task.” Or introduce new tasks by saying things like, “By the time you reach this point in the process, you should have the A, B, and C completed. In this lesson, you’ll see how to use those completed activities to…”

These are simple, rhetorical tricks, but they work.

So, use the existing work processes as the plot of your story, and then stitch the lessons together with connecting language as shown above.

Write simply.

Hemingway is reputed to have advised young writers to write simply. He urged them to appreciate the complexity of the world, but to write simply when expressing that complexity.

Suggestions to help you write simply:

  • Avoid using the word “utilize.” I’ve yet to come across any instances in the English language where the word “use” can’t replace the word “utilize.” And that goes for any word that ends in “ize.” As instructional designers, we need to write clearly and directly. If your prose starts to sound like an MBA wrote it, you’re in trouble.
  • Do what newspaper reporters do and write to an eighth to tenth grade reading level. I suggest taking all your copy from a course you’ve written and dropping it into Microsoft Word. If you’ve configured Word to display readability statistics after you complete a spell check, Word will provide you with some useful data about your writing, including a rough estimate of the reading level required to understand it and how easy it is to read.

Restrict yourself to no more than 100 words per page of content.

Frankly, I’d recommend no more than 80 words per page, but that can become restrictive. If you need more room, insert an extra page.

Tips to help you achieve this limit:

  • Outline your course before you begin to write it.
  • For each line in your outline, presume your course will need one screen of content. To cover your topic thoroughly, it may be helpful to let the OCD side of your personality take over when you outline your course. Don’t be shy about creating a monster outline because no one’s ever going to see it except you. The point is, the more thorough your outline, the more complete your course will be, and, if you find you’ve gone too crazy, it’s a lot easier to delete a line from an outline than it is to write the copy you need to cover a topic and then delete it.
  • Cover your topic in the space of that one screen.
  • If you need more than one screen to cover a topic, consider splitting your topic into two and use two pages to cover both new topics thoroughly.

Factor how fast people read when designing your course.

One source puts the average words per minute that average American adults read at 300 words per minute . This has a major impact on the design of your course, so factor that in when you consider how long you want your course to be. If this figure is accurate, it should take an average American adult 20 seconds to read a 100-word page of content.

However, if people are reading to think critically and learn, they’ll probably read a bit more slowly than that as they have to expend energy integrating your new content with what they already know.

Use an editor.

Abraham Lincoln is once reputed to have said that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client. There’s a corollary in there when it comes to editing your own work. You need fresh eyes on your content, someone who can spot when the Curse of Knowledge makes its way into your writing. For more on the Curse of Knowledge, please go to http://www.heathbrothers.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Not only will good editors edit your copy, but they’ll make recommendations on how to improve it. Learning from a good editor is one of the best ways to become a more effective writer.

The cool thing about these suggestions is that they’re technology independent. You can practice them irrespective of the technology you’re using to create your courseware.

This article was originally posted at http://blog.rwd.com/2011/10/writing-for-elearning/

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Opposition to eLearning Is Healthy for Its Growth


By Michael Keathley

As pressures to add online classes and programs continue to converge upon the fortresses of modern academia, resistance is responding with an equally powerful force. One of the most interesting tug of wars is between polarized educators who are strongly advocating for online courses and those who are adamantly opposed to eLearning.

The Issue

Largely because of demand from students, faculty, employers, and other socio-political forces as well as the need to save money and space, many postsecondary institutions are adding online classes at a rate that outpaces face-to-face (F2F) traditional brick and mortar growth. There are other pedagogical arguments that could be made in favor of adding online courses; however, these are not as frequently or as vociferously expressed as the others. It makes one wonder why the business reasons outweigh the pedagogical ones even for the non-profit and public schools who hold their heads high as the ones who value students over profits.

On the other hand, opponents typically cite:

  • a belief that students can not get the same experience in an online course as in a traditional F2F class
  • that online classes simply do not meet the academic rigor or security of F2F classes
  • that online classes do not result in savings and they may be even more expensive
  • that eLearning opens the door for all sorts of abuses.

Further Explication

However, the core of the issue for educators may lie elsewhere. As stated by Tina Korbe in a recent article entitled: “University of California teachers’ union aims to block online classes,” the objections expressed by the University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), provides a typical example of resistance. It appears, quite understandably, that an often neglected main objection to adding online classes comes down to not only professional, but also personal survival. As Korbe states, “Instructors… are terrified that this is code for cutting their pay, or increasing their workloads, or outsourcing their jobs to interlopers, or replacing them with online teaching software.” One has only to pay attention to the diction in that statement to feel the fear: ‘Pay cuts,’ ‘increased workloads,’ ‘outsourcing,’ ‘interlopers,’ and ‘replaced by technology’ are so commonly used now in the job market, they are almost clichés. Considering the pros, cons, and need for education and its constituents—faculty, administrators, and staff, included—to survive, there is good reason for the uproar.

Exacerbating Fears

Korbe’s somewhat snarky comments, echoed by others, that lecturers have “posh jobs” and they are just interested in tenure positions are typical examples of insensitivity, too. This does little to encourage solutions. There is nothing “posh” about living from term/semester to term/semester not knowing if you’ll have a job. There is nothing “posh” about working multiple part-time teaching positions, teaching more classes than a human being can possibly keep up with just so that you can hopefully pay your mortgage payment and utilities this month. There is nothing “posh” about forced unemployment during the summer months or having to go to the extremes that one of my former adjunct instructors did, selling her blood plasma for gas money to drive to campus to teach because the college didn’t offer part-time instructors their first paycheck of the academic year until nearly two months into the fall semester! There’s nothing “posh” about having a PhD and making little more than the fast-food workers who, incidentally, probably have better job security and benefits. As an administrator, I was neither pleased nor living the high life a few years ago while listening to a talented faculty member offer his resignation because being a full-time gas station attendant “paid better, offered benefits, and days off.”

Administrators and outside antagonists need to stop taunting faculty for the passion they have for their profession and their survival.

Responding in Kind

Faculty must also resist the temptation to respond to eLearning advocates in ways that exacerbate the negative. As a faculty member, administrator, and former faculty assembly president for more than two decades, I share with my colleagues great pride in the artistry of teaching. Once upon a time when the push for eLearning began at my institution, I was famous for heroically declaring, “Over my dead body will we offer online classes in this department!” As time went on, however, I was seduced by online opportunities. It began with simple tasks like being able to notify a faculty member’s students that class was cancelled because of illness via the Learning Management System (LMS). Then I discovered that if I made my syllabi and other classroom materials available on the LMS about a week before the first day of class, more than two-thirds of my students typically read them and began class better prepared. Finally, I came to realize the value in eLearning. I realized my fears of virtual education were largely unfounded. Technology, just like pen and paper, wax tablet and stylus before it, is a tool of learning; it will never replace a true teacher nor can it create a valuable educational experience on its own. I began to work with online learning advocates to create equitably rigorous online courses and programs in a way that was cost effective for the benefit of our students primarily and other constituents secondarily.

Reality Check

Honestly, looking back, the rigamortis I had promised over offering online classes was merely a creative expression of my fears about this brave new world that was global and nearly limitless in potential. Like the little creatures at the river’s bottom in Jonathon Livingston Seagull, I was afraid to let go of what had been so comfortable and secure for so long. Would the fast moving current of virtual education be detrimental to my students, our programs, and the college? Would technology replace me professionally? Would I become unemployable as a single father with two children to support? As a department chair and faculty assembly president, could I tell those who looked to me for leadership that their profession and jobs would be safe if we entered the virtual world?

The reality is that these battle lines can be healthy. Educators especially must put down their weapons; we know where living by the sword gets us. They need to do what educated people do best: lead! Together they need to return to the basics of academic research: analyze, synthesize, theorize, and apply.

The Heart of Academia

Online learning offers faculty/administrators the chance to be inspired by new visions of how the artistry of teaching can be delivered in a new modality. This is at the very heart of academia and the etymological meaning of the word ‘educate’—to pull forth from. For example, I was pulled out of my comfort zone to deeply rethink my profession and place in it. How could I energize and engage my online students in a true learning community as I had been able to do in the F2F classroom? How could classroom discussions move from the claustrophobic F2F meeting constraint of two-three hours per week within cement block walls to the breathtaking 24/7 borderless landscape of eLearning? How could I ensure that in every component of my online classes, I not only shared subject matter knowledge, but also that I took my students on an adventure that also improved their literacy skills, their technical fluency, and their communication abilities—all of which are needed to learn and work in today’s world. Closer to home, how could I hone my own skills to meet the demands of my profession during this rapid metamorphosis?

How wonderful is it that education is being forced, as I was, to continually evaluate what it is doing and how it’s being done! How wonderful for our students who continue to benefit from this debate. It should be seen positively as a system of checks and balances where educators in all roles engage in proactive, constructive dialog to meet the needs of all constituents internally (students, faculty, administration, and staff) and externally (employers, politicians, etc.). Here again, the University of California provides a concrete example of a positive solution. Korbe shares that together the UC-AFT and administration came up with an agreement “that included a new provision barring the system and its campuses from creating online courses or programs that would result in ‘a change to a term or condition of employment’ of any lecturer without first dealing with the union.” This helps alleviate faculty fears about their positions and shares ownership of the process, allowing all to focus on best practices of online education. This is a healthy step forward that other institutions and faculty organizations should emulate.

Newton’s First Law of Motion

Certainly Newton’s First Law of Motion may also apply to people: A body remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force. If there were no demand for online learning and no push back from concerned educators to maintain academic criteria, education would remain at rest and not evolve into the multitude of viable incarnations that are developing via the Internet. Consider just some of the categories in this arena available to today’s student:

• Traditional F2F

• Online

• Hybrid (a combination of F2F + online)

• Supplemented (F2F with online activities)

• Job Training • Certification

• Apprenticeships

• Courses only

• Competency-based

• Remediation/Tutoring

This is only a partial list, and the options and opportunities within each seem nearly limitless.

Fear Looks; Faith Leaps

Although opponents to virtual education are correct that institutions shouldn’t rush to drive the eLearning bandwagon into their curriculum, educators also must not fear the movement so much that they argue for a total moratorium. All sides working together can certainly arrive at winning solutions for all involved. Make the leap of faith to trust in your colleagues and your students to explore fully the benefits of online learning rather than reject it. The University of California is doing so, and this former opponent has now enjoyed working full-time in the virtual world for over ten years.

This article was originally posted at http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/news/2011/10/17/opposition-to-elearning-is-healthy-for-its-growth/

Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning


eLearning has revolutionized the study arena in many ways. Presently, almost all recognized global universities have eLearning programs for various disciplines. Experts are trying to find out new ways through which students can learn faster and gain better knowledge of subjects so as to impart better learning on the electronic medias. LMS or Learning Management Systems are considering many new dynamics in this field. Gamification or game mechanics is one such technique that is being experimented and used for imparting better e-learning in many subjects. The concept uses the mechanics of gaming in non-gaming applications and studies.

However, using game mechanics doesn’t refer to the inclusion of games in the electronic learning process. In fact, the mechanics has almost nothing to do with the applications of narrative and themes used. It rather encourages and urges the users to learn and explore properties with the help of different feedback mechanisms. Games are appealing because they engage the viewers and player in a particularly entertaining way. The use of the similar mechanics in LMS of eLearning can ease out things for learners and can help extensively in improving the learning process by increasing the interest.

The process of using game mechanics in LMS for eLearning is best done by gaming experts. These bunches of tech freaks know the ways to engage viewers. Learning or studying appears to be boring for many students who take it as a burden or duty. But when the entire system of eLearning will be converted into an engaging activity, the concepts of students and teachers will change in many aspects. The purpose of learning is to compel the brain to understand the concepts of e-books, and further translate the same into action and reactions. This is the prime reason why materials and books need to be fascinating to engage students.

While using gaming mechanics in eLearning, gaming engineers focus on creating goals and objectives. All games have certain objectives, which is the prime drive behind playing it. The same concept is used for creating goals in eLearning. These objectives, however, cannot be long-term as students will lose interest in achieving them. This is where the concept of ‘layers’ of objectives has been thought if. Giving many segments of goals will encourage learners to pursue them in a more concentrated way.

As discussed earlier, it is essential that regular feedback is taken from the learners regarding the use of game mechanics in the LMS structure in eLearning. The aim is to encourage and motivate learners to take an interest in all the activities, and; therefore, regular assessment is essential to measure the success and progress of the technique. If concepts used can hook the learner for several hours, then the engineer has undoubtedly succeeded in making the right use of gaming mechanics in eLearning.

About emPower

 

emPower  is a leading provider of comprehensive Healthcare Compliance Solutions through Learning Management System (LMS). Its mission is to provide innovative security solutions to enable compliance with applicable laws and regulations and maximize business performance. empower provides range of courses to manage compliance required by regulatory bodies such as OSHA, HIPAA, Joint commission and Red Flag Rule etc. Apart from this emPower also offers custom demos and tutorials for your website, business process management and software implementation.

Its Learning Management system (LMS) allows students to retrieve all the courses 24/7/365 by accessing the portal. emPower e-learning training program is an interactive mode of learning that guides students to progress at their own pace.

For additional information, please visit http://www.empowerbpo.com.

Report: Congress, Presidents, U.S. Supreme Court Have Obstructed OSHA Regulatory Process


Some OSHA regulations have been delayed for as long as 31 years, with presidents, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court all contributing to the slowdown in the rulemaking process.

“The requirements on OSHA have nearly paralyzed the agency,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen and author of the report. “As a result, OSHA cannot adequately protect workers from toxic chemicals, heat stress, repetitive use injuries, workplace violence and many other occupational dangers. Inadequate regulation imposes tremendous costs on workers, who may be forced to pay with their health or even their lives.”

Because so much time and resources are spent trying to promulgate fewer standards, Public Citizen asserts that OSHA has been unable to address many other risks. For example, NIOSH has identified 682 toxic chemicals to which workers are exposed. OSHA has no existing regulation for 244 of these chemicals, meaning workers can be exposed to them at any level. For another 196 chemicals, OSHA’s standards offer less protection than NIOSH recommends. OSHA has regulated only two chemicals since 1997; industry, meanwhile, develops two new chemicals every day.

This article was originally posted at http://ehstoday.com/standards/osha/report_obstruction_osha_standards_1007/

HIPAA Activity on the Rise


HIPAA Audit Program

The HIPAA audit program mandated by the HITECH Act is underway. HHS recently awarded KPMG $9.2 million to commence the program. To date, HHS review of covered entities has been complaint driven. Audit protocols will be developed for covered entities and business associates. The audits will begin late this year or early 2012, and consist of as many as 150 on-site audits of entities varying in type, size, and location. These audits can result in enforcement action if violations are discovered.

To get prepared for a HIPAA audit, providers should perform an updated risk assessment and review their policies and procedures. HHS issued an audit checklist that identifies personnel who may be interviewed and documents that may be requested during an audit.

Accounting of Disclosures and Access Report

The long-anticipated rules regarding accounting of disclosures were proposed this May. There are two major changes covered entities and business associates will need to address: 1) accounting for treatment, payment, and health care operations disclosures, and 2) providing an access report.

Accounting for Disclosures

While the proposed rules broaden the accounting requirement to treatment, payment, and health care operations, HHS proposes to limit the accounting to information maintained in a designated record set for three years prior to the date of the request. There are also proposed exemptions, including, disclosures in which 
breach notice was provided; abuse or neglect reports; patient safety work product, and disclosures for research, health oversight activities, decedents, and others required by law. Keep 
in mind these exemptions may still 
be subject to the Access Report. 
Other proposed changes include decreasing response time to 30 days 
and specifically including business associates.

Access Report

This rule proposes that an individual may request a report describing who has accessed their PHI maintained in an electronic designated record set, including the date and time of access, the person or entity accessing the information, a description of the information, and what was done with the information.

Covered Entities must revise their Notice of Privacy Practices to notify individuals of their right to an accounting and an access report.

Monetary Penalties

For the first time this year, there were three major monetary penalties issued for HIPAA violations. These include a $4.3 million penalty involving failure to provide access, a $1 million penalty involving loss of PHI, and most recently an $865,500 penalty involving unauthorized employee access to electronic PHI. Another reason to update your HIPAA program!

Joy Kosiewicz is an attorney in the Health Care Group at Brouse McDowell in Akron.

Are kids ready for a digital blackboard?


Shanghai – When students of Shanghai Luwan No 1 Central Primary School come to school in November, some will no longer have to watch the blackboard. Instead, their eyes will be directed toward brand-new Apple iPads given by the school.

A trial class of 24 pupils in the fourth grade will use the iPads starting from November if everything goes according to plan, said Hou Yanjun from the school’s teaching affairs office.

“We bought iPads for the 24 students and their teachers last year for the trial class and the original idea was to use iPads as a digital tool in almost each class,” said Hou, who is in charge of the project.

“Game and entertainment applications will be banned on those iPads,” she said. “We’re now waiting for an IT company to design us a specific application, which will enable every student in the class to access their own account.”

Teaching plans and exercises, together with course material such as interactive games will be used, said Wu Rongjin, principal of the primary school.

“With a tablet computer in their hands, students will be able to choose their own exercises from various difficulty levels. The system is able to automatically correct their mistakes and then report to the teacher.”

However, some of Wu’s counterparts said they could not endorse the idea of digitalizing the classroom.

“Face to face (between students and teachers) is the most effective way of teaching and learning from my viewpoint,” said Wu Jian, deputy principal of the High School Affiliated to Fudan University.

“Teachers can respond differently and immediately to varied individuals this is irreplaceable.”

The electronic device cannot replace teachers or textbooks even if it has advantages as a digital teaching tool, he added.

In the meantime, scholars and parents also raised concerns that schools are rushing to invest in iPads before their educational value has been proven.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education from Stanford University, was quoted by New York Times as saying.

“iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”

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