E-learning in the Health & Social Care Sector

The web has revolutionised our lives. Our children keep up to date with the latest music, films, shows and cultural events through their smart phones and tablets whilst our grandparents quite happily order their groceries via their PC’s. So it is that the web has also brought the business of training up to date. A key learning experience is only ever a click away.

In less than a generation we have gone from assembling disparate learners in a fixed environment where flip charts and blackboards were the standard tools of the trade, to a dynamic place where a keyboard and a mouse open the digital door to a a world of information and knowledge.

Dr Susan Ambrose is Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning at North Eastern University, and co-author of four books, most recently How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2010). She says “Learning is defined as a change in knowledge, beliefs, behaviours or attitudes.”, but she emphasises “Learning is not something done to students, but something that students themselves do.”  This is where E-Learning or online course content can be an invaluable adjunct to the 21st century facilitators of learning.

E-learning (or ‘electronic’ learning) can be defined as ‘learning that is delivered, enabled or mediated using electronic technology’. E-learning generally means using a computer to deliver some or all of a course whether it’s in a school or college, forms part of business training process or a full-distance learning course.

blended learning teacher

The common fear that has held organisations back from embracing and investing in e-learning is that staff are not ready for the quantum leap to this brave new world of learning. Research undertaken by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) examined just this; the readiness of organisations and staff members in the UK social care sector for E-learning. Interestingly they found that many employers acknowledged the value of E-learning. The reasons they gave for this positive appraisal of the new learning medium included that it offered flexibility of access for employees (70% mentioned this), cost effective (68%) as well as being time effective for them the employer (66%).

The enthusiasm of employers for the new learning medium was only tempered by concerns over the capacity of their staff to adapt to the new delivery method. Interestingly whilst many employers believed that their staff did not have the necessary skills and motivation, however the employees themselves disagreed. Two-thirds (66%) felt that they did have the skills to use IT, and it also appeared that employees were better resourced in terms of computer access than their employers believed. Four in five had access to a computer at home (81%) and two in three (68%) had immediate access to one at work. Of those who do have access to a computer at work, half (51%) said they used it every day

Other research determined the following potential benefits. It found E-learning:

  • Provided a consistent learning experience that wasn’t geographically bound

  • Reduced learning delivery time

  • Increased learner convenience.

  • Reduced learner overload (meaning the learner can work at their own pace).

  • Improved tracking (e-learning tools can automatically keep records of who has done training, what test scores were obtained etc, which has proven a boon to health & Social care providers whose training is often subject to regulatory inspection)

  • Lowered expenses

  • 24/7 access to learning resources, allowing for maximised flexibility

E-learning is more than just a delivery mechanism; it provides the learner with an element of control, and in adult learners in particular this is key. They can access the unit or module at a time of their choosing. They can review and re-interrogate information in a way that would put pressure on classroom time, as well as expose them to the discomfort of being that person who ‘keeps asking questions’.

A well designed e-learning module or course will have interactivity built in as an integral part of the experience. This increases the engagement between the learner and the learning object which in turn maximizes comprehension and retention. Two thousand years ago Confucius had already determined that ‘doing’ enhanced the process of learning, now we digitally ‘do’. With the keyboard at their fingertips learners can also very quickly and easily access top up or qualifying information. The act of ‘googling’ to acquire information has become the learning reflex of a generation, and is arguably fast becoming a part of the way in which our brains are now programmed.

E-learning is not just about substituting classroom training for online modules. Phil Hardy, Managing Director of SecuriCare says, “Our raison d’etre as a training organisation is to provide learning experiences that are engaging, informative and ultimately valuable. Such experiences are best achieved when the learner is in direct control of the journey. We are firm believers that the ‘online learning’ just this..”

A growing number of organisations are also making the realisation that ‘blended learning’ offers a powerful learning experience. Blended learning, otherwise known as “hybrid” and “mixed-mode” learning offers a golden opportunity to maximise learning. Typically an e-component is provided to the learner prior to any classroom time. This allows them to familiarise themselves with key underpinning information which means the classroom time and space can be used to greatest effect; dealing with any questions that may have arisen, consolidating understanding and engaging in the sort of practices and drills that allow the individual to assimilate their learning with into their existing knowledge bank.

Phil Hardy again, “We recognise the value of a bespoke approach to learning; bespoke to the organisation and bespoke the individual. People want learning on their terms. Using our online platform we can control the learning pathway and key information at a time that benefits the learner. In the classroom skilled trainers like those SecuriCare employ use the face-to-face time to create the most fertile environment they can for learning to take place. This includes interacting with learners, getting to get to know them as individuals, building their confidence, nurturing supportive networks between learners and providing constructive feedback as well as adapting dynamically to the needs of the learners”

The blended learning concept is timely because its means that the entry into the whole e-learning experience is less daunting for all concerned. SecuriCare offer a variety of programmes in the blended format, as well as standalone e-courses and classroom courses. As an organisation SecuriCare specialise in Challenging Behaviour, & Physical Intervention Training. The SecuriCare Online Academy also offers a range of training courses such as The Care Certificate, Preventing and Managing Challenging Behaviour and Health & Safety, as well as many more.

SecuriCare’s courses are designed to help organisations meet their legal requirements and give staff the skills they need to work safely and effectively.

There are many  e-learning websites which offer a free trial and cover and multitude of disciplines, such as Lynda.com. They offer a free 10 day trial. Enough time to learn a whole topic without paying a penny.

About Sandra Nelson