Is eLearning a Viable Options for NHS Staff?

Is eLearning right for the NHS?

The steady uptake of e-Learning courses within the health sector is set to continue apace over forthcoming years, with providers and users increasingly turning to online training in favour of traditional classroom teaching. There are many advantages to this revolutionary form of education, but some have questioned whether it can be deployed effectively across the NHS.

Here, we discuss the proposed benefits and consider how to tackle some of the limitations that have been noted by NHS Trusts and practitioners.

The advantages of e-Learning for NHS staff

Healthcare workers are notoriously short of time, constantly pressured to work efficiently while maintaining optimum performance. Thus, one of the biggest draws for e-Learning is its inherent flexibility, empowering users to complete modules at their own pace and according to their own schedule.

Historically, training courses have had to be arranged months in advance, with professionals often travelling long distances. Aside from the obvious impact that this can have on clinical timetables, the financial and environmental burdens should not be ignored; travel and accommodation costs all add up for the taxpayer, while the carbon footprint of learners congregating at designated venues can also be significant.

Remote learning, however, nullifies the concerns listed above, as students can log-on at their leisure without dramatically interrupting the working week. Access is 24/7 and can be made via multiple devices, enabling people to structure their learning around ongoing priorities, commitments and patient care. Furthermore, online training isn’t dependent on individuals being able to attend specific sessions, meaning no risk of cancellation or postponement.

However, some have argued that this around-the-clock access isn’t necessarily a good thing, as individuals logging-on at home can feel overworked and may not fully absorb critical information. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that modules/courses don’t necessarily have to be completed in one go, as users can save progress at any point and continue at a later date; it has even been suggested that this gradual approach to learning can be more effective, with knowledge seeping in over a prolonged period.

Overall, the logistical and time-saving benefits of e-Learning seem to outweigh any anxieties over it being detrimental to homelife. Indeed, many would argue that the flexibility on offer can only serve to improve one’s work/life balance.

Consistent and efficient training

Using conventional training to introduce new guidelines has always required much planning and coordination, often resulting in lengthy delays before information reaches its intended audience and policies are put into place.

However, e-Learning programmes can be instantly updated, ensuring that new training can be rolled-out immediately, nationwide. This ability to quickly communicate important messages marks e-Learning out as a fantastic tool, offering great value for public organisations that need to comply with regulatory standards.

Consistency is also achieved, with e-Learners receiving the same training across the board. This is difficult to maintain with face-to-face training, as sessions can differ from tutor to tutor, class to class. With e-Learning, however, you can guarantee that all information is communicated in exactly the same manner, and programmes can be constantly refined to ensure that they are as effective and user-friendly as possible.

Additionally, progress is easily monitored with straightforward reporting that allows managers to track activity and ensure that all staff are up-to-date.

How to Get eLearning Right

There is much debate over individual learning styles and how people respond differently to various approaches, but it is generally accepted that visual information is processed faster than reading text or receiving a lecture, while imagery also encourages a higher retention rate.

One of the key advantages to e-Learning is the ability to insert graphics, pictures, diagrams and even video content into lessons, ensuring that courses are fully-optimised for engagement. One of the biggest concerns for NHS practices that are considering the adoption of e-Learning is the fear of compromising on quality, but most providers design programmes that incorporate interactive elements, creating great user experiences that aid education.

A potential roadblock to the widespread deployment of e-Learning across the health service is the preconception that some may find it intimidating or difficult to use, particularly older employees who may not be as confident with technology as their younger counterparts. Concerns have also been expressed over the use of e-Learning to educate staff that do not hold English as their first language.

While there are definitely circumstances where face-to-face training should be prioritised, such as role-plays and simulations that work best with practical, hands-on experience, the uptake of e-Learning should not be discounted over fears that it won’t suit all stakeholders. Courses are carefully constructed to be as convenient and straightforward as possible, written in plain English, with great care taken to ensure clarity and ease of use.

Ultimately, e-Learning has proven to be invaluable to many industry sectors, enabling the implementation and expansion of comprehensive continual professional development programmes. There are many plus points, such as cost-savings and time efficiencies, but, understandably, NHS Trusts and GP surgeries will only embrace the new technology en masse once they are satisfied that there can be no negative impact upon their duty of care.


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