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E-learning in Healthcare | Benefits & Challenges
E-learning in Healthcare: Benefits, Challenges and Limitations | The Mandatory Training Group
The Guardian's expert panel talks about what e-learning can offer the NHS and its staff
E-learning can be cost effective, time efficient and a flexible way to access training. Photograph: Getty Images/Image Source
What are the benefits of e-learning for organisations and staff?
Colin McEwen, account manager, eCom Scotland: "One of the major benefits is the flexibility e-learning offers ... This can help ensure learning is more accessible and is not overlooked. There are also benefits when it comes to managing compliance and continual professional development, both from an individual and organisational perspective ... There can also be budgetary and time saving benefits for the organisation"
Emily Newlands, development and support manager, National Skills Academy for Health: "E-learning can be cost effective, time efficient and a flexible way to access training. In a sector like the health sector where people can be quickly pulled away it is something you can dip out of and go back to – you aren’t locked into a classroom"
What are the limitations of e-learning?
Anonymous: "There are some topics where healthcare professionals can only scratch the surface and aren’t able to talk through issues with individuals so they truly grasp the subject matter. A lot of diversity training is now done by e-learning, but generally it doesn’t allow a space for individuals to explore the concept in an interactive way to allow people to work through their internal dialogues and achieve real change. E-learning should never be the totality of the training provision and one of the sad things of the pressures of the current workload for clinicians is that often it is the only type of learning they can do because of time and funding resource issues"
Dr Dirk Pilat, medical director for e-learning, Royal College of GPs: "There is ongoing duplication of resources right across the sector, with varying educational institutions creating similar content which results in reduced take up. There is definitely a need for an intelligent meta-site which accumulates all available resources"
Beth Britton, campaigner, consultant, writer and blogger: "Well thought out e-learning is fine for some aspects of education, particularly theoretical elements. However, I don’t think it is suitable for aspects that require a far more sensitive, personalised approach, for example dementia care. E-learning in dementia care is never going to get to the heart of seeing the person, and issues around individuality, communication, problem solving etc in the way that face-to-face training that is interactive and based on group learning and discussion can. Also, I have severe reservations about any e-learning programme that offers obvious multiple choice answers to questions. This is not learning – it’s box ticking"
What are the challenges of implementing e-learning?
Newlands: "Not scheduling time, not engaging staff, not picking the right e-learning, not having a proper roll out plan. But there are things we can do about it – making the managers e-learning champions for instance"
Dr Julie Gripton, deputy director head of multiprofessional education, Medway NHS foundation trust: "Dispelling fears around using IT based courses and IT itself, for non-pc users and those trying to complete with a second language"
Tracy Smith, Healthcare Financial Management Association: "Having someone to take ownership of e-learning within each organisation is a challenge in itself. Then identifying who would benefit from what training and allowing time to complete the training becomes a secondary challenge"
Bryan Kessie, head of technical development, Skills for Health: "Organisations need champions and to make sure the messages get through to staff. Once staff see the point of doing the learning and see what good quality e-learning looks like many of the barriers are overcome"
Pilat: "I think the constant stream of innovations that happen on the infrastructure (hardware/software/instructional design) side of things make it difficult for providers to constantly re-create their existing content. E-learning as an academic subject is only 40 years old, so both the andragogy and pedagogy of e-learning are in constant flux and the evidence on how best to successfully engage learners is still in its infancy"
Lia Ali, consultant psychiatrist and clinical lead for digital health, south London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust: "Underfunded IT infrastructure, lack of protected time, thinking that e-learning is the only way, getting data to show that behaviour change is produced – particularly in certain topics"
Are healthcare staff given scheduled time and space to learn properly?
David T Evans, national teaching fellow and senior lecturer in sexual health, University of Greenwich: "Sadly, many would probably say “no” to this, except for the mandatory stuff. I suppose it depends on the topic and how they are scheduled"
Kessie: "This varies across organisations – many organisations do prioritise training and allow staff time and resources to keep their skills up to date. We work closely with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust who use simulation to train staff team. It can be a double edged sword, e-learning allows staff to do training at work and fits with shift commitments etc, but this can also mean staff undertake training in their own time and this becomes the norm"
How can e-learning cut the cost of healthcare and divert resources to more staff and better working practices?
Pilat: "E-learning can save costs on infrastructure and personnel which can be reinvested in patient services. Just imagine the carbon footprint a whole course can create if all members have to travel to a venue, have to be kept warm/cold and fed instead of sitting at home or in the workplace, learning online"
Gripton: "One of the benefits of e-learning is rapid accessibility. If we release a classroom course it has to be planned at least six to eight weeks in advance for clinical schedules. With e-learning staff can access courses immediately. This stops delays in the system and is not reliant on the staff member being available for a specific session"
Polly Pascoe, works with the NHS as a knowledge and intelligence coordinator: "E-learning can only begin to cut costs once a large investment (of not only money) goes into the design and delivery of it. Creating e-learning simply to gain a quick win of saving costs elsewhere will eventually produce staff who are not experiencing true and valuable development"
Source: The Guardian
E-learning in Healthcare | Benefits, Challenges and Limitations | Online Training | The Mandatory Training Group