The continuous refinement of online learning platforms has ensured that aged services and professionals are increasingly accessing the latest knowledge from their mobiles, tablets and desktops. Whether it is webinars, video on demand or Moodle, technology continues to transform professional development. Technology Review profiles two initiatives making a difference.
Learning on demand
This online learning platform is helping aged services overcome many of the challenges with traditional forms of continuous assessment, writes Darragh O’Keeffe.
As a former learning and development manager in a major aged care organisation, Kathryn Purvis knows all too well about the challenges of delivering consistent quality learning across multiple sites in multiple regions to a diverse body of staff.
Education coordinators in aged care organisations often face the ongoing challenge of keeping tabs on which staff members have completed which assessments, chasing completed continuous assessment tasks from staff, staying on top of marking, and collating data for their organisation’s centralised record, says Purvis, who is learning and development manager at the Aged Care Channel (ACC).
It was precisely these challenges associated with traditional methods of continuous assessment that ACC sought to help organisations overcome when it developed its online learning platform.
A centralised system
While the ACC’s traditional platform of satellite broadcasting and DVD provided aged care organisations with access to evidence-based learning on key topics, it nonetheless required most organisations to have a coordinator on site to collect answer sheets, mark them and record each staff member’s progress.
Add to the mix the highly causal and dispersed workforce in aged care, which compounds the challenge of getting staff to a single location for training. This is particularly the case in home care, where education coordinators are overseeing a mobile workforce, most of whom are working in isolation.
Little wonder then that ACC members have embraced the new online learning platform since it was launched in June 2012, as it provides education coordinators with a centralised system of marking and recording staff learning and development across an organisation.
Last year alone some 38,232 users accessed the system, with programs viewed more than 96,000 times and some 49,280 learning plans created.
“While education coordinators still need to oversee their staff’s assessment and learning, the online platform enables them to do that remotely, from anywhere, rather than being tied to a particular site, where they had to constantly chase completed assessments, mark them and record the results,” says Purvis.
The platform gives education coordinators insight into what programs are being viewed by whom, and the learning plan feature enables them to set up a module of training and allocate it to a set group of users for completion within a certain timeframe. Furthermore, learning packages can be planned more than a year in advance.
The automated process also helps coordinators follow up on inactive users in the system, thereby incorporating an element of strengthened accountability.
Enabling multiple approaches
The online platform is a complement to the ACC’s traditional model of using TV broadcasting and DVD. Purvis says organisations vary in how they are using ACC’s delivery models with some combining several elements to meet their specific needs.
However, she says the majority of providers are fully embracing the flexibility offered by online and IP streaming technology.: “Most organisations are looking at moving towards online as it enables their staff to undertake their training where they want to, when they want to.”
Furthermore, given many aged care organisations have been implementing electronic systems in their care management and business operations, adopting the online platform for their education and training is a natural progression, Purvis adds.
While individual staff have more control over their learning, and can use their computer, mobile or tablet device to watch the training videos in their own time, some organisations are also using the platform to facilitate more traditional group sessions, says Purvis.
“There is a back-end component that enables it; you can create a group session for group facilitated training, which goes on each staff member’s individual record.”
Other organisations are requesting their staff undertake training in particular areas but leave other programs open for staff to explore if they wish; “and some staff are doing that, which is great as it is essentially self-initiated training.”
Developed from the ground up
To ensure the learning platform would be as beneficial as possible for aged care providers, ACC undertook years of consultation with its members, Purvis says. The overarching message was that providers wanted a clean, simple platform that was intuitive and easy for staff to navigate.
One aspect that took some time to develop was ACC’s 3E Assessment that consists of three different types of assessment types including essentials, extensions and evidenced base.
There was strong feedback that members wanted variety in the assessment, so as to keep staff engaged. As a result, there is triple the amount of questions than is required to complete an assessment in the Essentials for example, and these are randomised so the chances of seeing the same questions are reduced, says Purvis.
The platform provides an option for members to add comments and suggestions – feedback that is constantly monitored. “They can go in and start up a conversation about a proposed change, and other people can vote on that proposed change or suggest something slightly different,” says Purvis.
“In fact, we are currently refining the reporting arrangements the member organisations are using; we’re constantly improving the system,” she adds.
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Made to measure
Aged services can now commission tailor-made and cost-effective online education to upskill staff and meet an organisation’s specific needs, reports Natasha Egan.
Competency-based training for newly-qualified community care workers or existing staff on the elements of healthy ageing or the foundations of wound care are just three of the established offerings from CQUniversity.
However, when it comes to the full range of courses on offer, the possibilities are endless, says Deb Friel, director of CQUniversity’s Centre for Professional Health Education (CPHE), which can develop courses for industry from one to 120 hours of coursework.
“We are an open book. We are in the business of custom building whatever you want. If you want a short course in manual handling we can offer it,” she tells Technology Review. “We engage a clinical expert in the area. They write the content for us and we offer it as a platform.”
The courses are not just designed for those organisation’s with big education budgets. CPHE is looking at offering short course modules of one hour, which registered nurses, for example, could use for compulsory professional development, for about $20 to $25. Currently, this is unheard of in the industry, Friel says.
She says the CPHE has always created custom-built learning content for industry on a smaller scale to local organisations but work with some of those local aged care partners and word of mouth has led the centre to expand its offerings.
Technology for distance, face-to-face
In partnership with local community services provider Centacare, CPHE has piloted non-award competency-based training for community care workers involving 18 hours of online training and a one-day competency-focused workshop.
It came about when Centacare, which like the university is based in Rockhampton, approached the university to get help upskilling its new community care staff.
The workers had a Cert III qualification in aged care but were still entering the workforce with some deficits and the provider wanted all staff to start at the same level of competency, says Friel.
“We sat down with them, went through their job descriptions, picked out the key clinical competencies these staff needed and the sort of people they were employing, and the easiest way for them to learn.”
Most of the staff were middle-aged women with families working shift work and didn’t have time to come into classes, she says.
“We custom-built them a module that was 18 hours of online course content to be done over four to five weeks. Then we brought them all into the university labs and did clinical skills with them, and they completed competency assessments. They had to demonstrate they could complete the skills to an appropriate levels,” she says.
The workshops include MaskEd simulation, which features life-like character masks and silicone body parts that health educators use to mask themselves for realistic role-play and patient scenarios.
“Within this competency care workshop we introduced Muriel, who is an ex-matron. She’s an elderly lady. She’s very demanding. She’s got a lot of co-morbidities. So she is a very real older person,” says Friel.
“Muriel is able to interact with the students and get them to complete tasks they would do in the real person’s home. The students absolutely loved it. It was safe. That’s what they liked about it.”
The eight online learning modules for this program covered hand washing and personal protection equipment; risk and hazard reduction with common home services; manual handling; mobility equipment and transfers in the community setting; falls prevention in the home; assisting clients with self-medication; oral healthcare; foot and nail care and reporting elder abuse in the community setting.
New partners welcome
The CPHE is continuing to expand its aged care reach and launched the Healthy Ageing Alliance last November. It is a professional development alliance between CQUniversity, CentacareCQ and Mercy Aged Care Services to develop ongoing training and work-related learning opportunities for staff employed at all levels within the residential and community aged care industries in Central Queensland.
Friel says the centre has partnerships with other providers, such as PresCare in Queensland, and has the capacity for more. Geographic boundaries are unlimited for online courses, she says, and the CPHE can run workshops at any of CQUniversity’s Australian campuses, such as Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane or Geraldton, for any groups that are interested.
As they own the intellectual property of the material they develop, Friel says they can easily and cost-effectively rebuild the modules to suit the next provider’s content and delivery needs.
CPHE has started with clinical competencies and care workshops at the basic level targeting patient care assistants and assistants in nursing but now offer programs for enrolled nurses and registered nurses to upskill in particular areas of need. They also offer other modules for roles in aged care from gardeners up to the CEO so all employees have a level of competency around the services being offered to clients.
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This report first appeared in the January 2015 Technology Review