The impact of eLearning on healthcare education
The healthcare industry has seen a tremendous amount of change over the past 10-20 years. A number of macro trends require the industry to adapt in different ways. A huge example of this kind of shift is the growing popularity of digital and virtual forms of education. The way we teach people new skills and prepare them for careers has evolved dramatically over the last decade.
This is true across the spectrum of industries. These shifts were also noted in the way individuals were trained before entering the healthcare system. The way new health professionals learn their craft has changed forever. It is important to understand how healthcare education uses technology, how to apply it well, and how your students can get the most out of the benefits that eLearning can offer.
The evolving nature of education
Although the introduction of digital learning methods and tools has created significant differences in the way healthcare education is facilitated, this is certainly not the first time education has undergone a major facelift. In fact, educational formats have seen a number of iterations in recent centuries, even in the US alone. Education in healthcare is no exception. From the beginning of its modern form, it has seen the introduction of new types of equipment, new teaching methods, new student populations, new technologies and entirely new areas of practice. Healthcare is currently shifting again to make room for the benefits that digital learning can provide.
What is eLearning?
As already mentioned, eLearning refers to a wide range of ways in which technology is implemented and used in educational practice. eLearning includes things like online learning management systems (LMS), computer-generated teaching or training simulations, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), distance learning/teaching, virtual undergraduate and graduate programs, and more. The field of eLearning includes a wide set of techniques, aids and tools. If a training program or technique has a digital or online component, it probably fits into the eLearning category.
The benefits that eLearning can create for healthcare education
Educating health care providers is a complex, multifaceted process. For this reason, different eLearning options lend themselves to being incorporated in a number of ways. Many of these techniques can bring substantial benefits to both teachers and students. Here are some ways that e-learning tools and approaches are being incorporated into health education:
1. By offering healthcare degrees online and in virtual formats
From associate degrees in nursing to graduate doctoral programs in public health and health administration, a wide variety of medical degrees can now be earned fully remotely through digital platforms. A decade ago, degrees earned online were viewed with skepticism and not considered the same level of education as an in-person degree program. However, this view is changing across the industry. Although there are still some aspects of health education that may be difficult or impossible to deliver through an eLearning format, technology continues to close the gap between what is only possible in person and what is possible remotely through digital interfaces.
2. By creating simulations and virtual ways of practicing health care skills
As technology continues to improve, things like realistic video and computer-generated imagery, highly sophisticated sensors, robotic components, artificial intelligence (AI) applications, and more make it possible to create highly realistic simulations of real events. The ability to simulate living conditions for training purposes has a number of obvious advantages, and these advantages are realized in medical education today. From being able to practice realistic conversations with patients through software to practicing difficult surgeries in VR simulators, simulations can allow healthcare professionals to hone their skills without putting real patients at risk.
3. By making medical education available to individuals without personal access
When education takes place in a particular time and place, it creates both advantages and disadvantages. One of these disadvantages is the fact that only people who can get to the place can participate. With the advent of e-learning offerings, health education has suddenly become incredibly limitless in some ways. This makes health education available to a wide range of individuals who would not have had access to it in the past. This includes people from all over the world, people who are in remote communities or areas, or people with limited mobility. Making medical education accessible through distance learning and eLearning can also reduce the costs of providing and obtaining this education. Travel and relocation may be unnecessary. In addition, eLearning can expand the reach of health education and make it available to many more people at once.
Tips for implementing eLearning into healthcare education practice
If you are involved in healthcare education and would like to learn more about incorporating eLearning tools and techniques, here are some tips to get you started:
- Explore best practices
Find out which institutions are at the forefront of healthcare eLearning and how they do it. You can learn a lot from programs that are further along in the eLearning process.
- Ask your existing students
Your current student base can help you in this process. Poll your students to get useful ideas about what they really need. They can offer insight and help determine whether a proposed installation or upgrade would actually be useful or usable.
- Keep an eye on other tech-savvy industries
Sometimes the inspiration for new ways to incorporate technology can come from different industries. See how other industries train their new recruits and employees. How is eLearning used to achieve other types of education?
All of these ideas and more can help you design solid strategies for using eLearning in ways that improve your health education delivery.