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E-Learning: A New Epoch in Healthcare Education

Col Binu Sharma, Senior Director - Nursing, Max Healthcare

The healthcare industry is overburdened by ageing demographics, emerging trends, and changing public perceptions. Flexible continuous training programs are therefore necessary to meet this crisis. E-learning fills the need for continual education and in-service training. It also cuts down on the time and cost associated with training health care professionals.

Concept of e-learning in healthcare:

The educational approach has historically been rather simple: until the early 2000s. The modern world is complex, with issues and concerns that did not exist even a decade ago. Learning took place in a classroom where physical presence was a necessity, and other forms of learning were at best questionable. Then came the computer revolution, which fundamentally altered the landscape of education in the form of e-learning. The idea of e-learning is always evolving, much like society.

E-learning is a component of the new dynamic that re-defined educational systems at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is challenging to develop a single definition of online learning. Different professional methods and personal interests influence how people comprehend e-learning.

In many healthcare organizations, learning and development activities increasingly include e-learning, which helps healthcare personnel expand their knowledge and skills. Today, it serves as a major resource for training and development in the healthcare sector. Patients benefit most when healthcare professionals are knowledgeable about the recent developments in medical science and technology and have easy access to all the information regarding evidence-based procedures, regulations, and protocols.

New trends & Innovations in e-learning:

A range of new trends and innovations have been included in e-learning activities in the recent years.

Blended Learning: It is a key trend in remote learning,which combines traditional face-to-face and online learning activities.
Mobile Learning: It aims to give every individual user access to education using portable electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, wherever they are.
Micro Learning: A new development in social learning, which divides instructional material into manageable, brief portions.
Social Learning: In the modern e-learning environment, this sort of learning may be handled through the exchange of information via social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

Benefits of e-learning in Healthcare:

1.    Increases compliancetomandatory training hours
2.    Aids inprofessional development
3.    Increases healthcare workforce retention
4.    Improved employee satisfaction
5.    Maintains uniformity in skills of healthcare professionals
6.    Significant saving of time and money
7.    Enhances patient outcomes
8.    Informs, encourages, oversees, and trackshealthcare professionals work progress
9.    Allows healthcare professionals the freedom to learn at their own speed
10.    Gives new professionals the chance to learn from and connect with seniors and trainers
11.    High-quality information through live sessions, case studies, animations, videos, simulations and problem-based learning.
12.    Meets the need of necessary skill set for evolving healthcare demands

Types of e-learning:

E-learning takes place in a variety of ways and occasionally combines the following approaches and practices:

I.    Complete online:No face to face interactions.
II.    Hybrid form: It is a blended learning environment, combining face to face interactions with online learning in two distinct modes such as Synchronous and Asynchronous.

a) Synchronous e-learning:
It occurs when the trainer and trainee are both online and communicating simultaneously from various places.
b) Asynchronous e-learning:
Asynchronous online learning involves pause-and-resume kind of learning. The trainee and the trainer are not able to be online simultaneously in this sort of e-learning.

Methods of e-learning in Healthcare:

With eLearning, the options are unlimited. Online trainings are used in the healthcare sector in a variety of ways, from onboarding to technical skill training. With the help of Learning Management Systems (LMS) healthcare professionals may learn interactively in a variety of innovative formats.

1. Virtual Courses:
Virtual trainings have been much simpler in recent years because of improvements in online video conference software’s.Offering remote learning in this way has shown to be quite effective.

2. Self-paced Learning:
In the past, healthcare organizations would develop a timetable for staff training that detailed what would be taught and when. Due to their 24/7 responsibilities and demanding work schedules, the majority of healthcare professionals, however, favour opportunities for independent, self-directed learning and prefer to learn in their leisure time.

With the help of an LMS, healthcare professionals may educate themselves at their own paceon the subjects and skills they believe to be most interesting to them or that they need to improve on.

3. Learning on the go:
Studying ‘on the go’ is made simpler by the more flexible method provided by e-learning, where learners may access course materials at any time. Healthcare learning management systems (LMS) are online learning platforms specifically curated for healthcare organizations. Medical institutions and organizations can help their employees keep abreast on current medical standards, new clinical technology, and updated protocols by offering certified continuing education, training, and other learning and development services through the use of healthcare LMS systems.

4. Sharing Educational Resources:
More than ever, modern LMS systems have made it simple for healthcare institutions and companies to offer instructional materials to their employees who may access them remotely.

5. Simulation through Virtual and Augmented Reality:
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are expected to have a significant influence on online learning in the healthcare sector (AR). Instructors may recreate real-life events with the use of VR and AR, allowing healthcare professionals to learn information that would otherwise be challenging to understand in a natural setting.

6. Customized Learning Experiences:
Because of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, it is now easier to build customized learning experiences. By fusing information from learning platforms, learning management systems are now able to provide ideas for each learner that are more matched to their needs.

E-learning – Digital transformation in healthcare education:

In order to assure flexibility in a dynamic workplace, healthcare professionals in the twenty-first century must not only possess a standard clinical education but also should be current with emerging technology. The need for high-end e-learning is rising as a result of this new technology. The world now wants more after seeing and experiencing the success of traditional e-learning. Not just in terms of imparting knowledge, but also with regard to the addition of interactive features and learner motivation.Two of these training methods that have revolutionized education in the healthcare sector are computer-assisted learning and simulation-based online training.

Computer-assisted learning (CAL):

One of the main uses of computer- assisted learning in the field of healthcare has been to simply make it easier for healthcare workers to keep up with the knowledge and current clinical practices.Additionally, CAL has become a more and more well-liked instrument for medical professionals to master complex skill sets that are continually more closely related to cutting-edge technology.

Colleges, universities and hospitals may utilize a variety of CAL to assist their students and employees in gaining a deeper understanding of a range of subjects, including clinical procedures, practices and more.The instructors and learnersget quick feedback on how they are progressing. Healthcare technology is developing so swiftly, andCAL has assisted healthcare workers in gaining fundamental information and skills, particularly in asynchronous, self-paced learning environments.

Simulation-based online training:

Healthcare professionals can participate fully immersive training before they meet real-world patient scenarios thanks to the cutting-edge technology's ability to simulate real-life conditions in a virtual environment. Health care professionals can now focus on developing their mental agility and decision-making skills in addition to the practical knowledge that was previously only learned on the job, particularly in emergency or trauma situations. Healthcare workers are better prepared to handle difficult situations and eventually give patients with higher-quality care in today's modern, technologically enhanced, simulation-based classrooms.

The following are some advantages of simulations in e-learning:

•    E-learning simulations could liven up the curriculum with interactivity and interest.
•    Outlines the actions and reactions that inspire irrational behavior.
•    The learned information is immediately applicable.
•    Successful outcomes from e-learning simulations are possible.
•    Simulated learning can be utilized alongside other e-learning strategies.

There are few ways to practice simulations in healthcare education, such as:

Virtual clinical simulation:

Clinical training may benefit from a novel method called virtual clinical simulation. The technology allows medical professionals to interact with virtual patients and receive open feedback on their work. With the use of clinical scenarios, the students can apply their knowledge, make decisions, perform interventions, get feedback on their performance, and repeat exercises and content at their own pace.

Simulation-based Virtual Objective Structured Clinical Examination:

The rising need to convert clinical practice into telemedicine models is made possible by virtual OSCE. Core learning for clinical decision-making can facilitated by virtual OSCE in online learning environments.

E-learning in healthcare - The way forward:

E-learning is now a desirable option for healthcare organizations to maintain competency and to update knowledge and skills of healthcare professionals. The integration of e-learning into healthcare education is urgently required. Many healthcare organizations, hospitals and medical institutions have recognized the importance of technology, and they have already included the use of e-learning into their core trainings and upskilling programmes.There are many different approaches being employed, from simple digital libraries to more intricate distant learning networks, multimedia software’s, learning management systems, virtual simulations, mobile applications, and other e-resources.

Education experts and organizations must select the finest e-learning materials for use in situations with constrained resources, consider how these modalities influence the already constrained faculty time, and understand how practical and cost-effective they are.

To make this happen, institutions, instructors and learners must be willing to accept the change and invest the necessary resources, whether in the form of manpower, material and money. The following qualities are necessary for a successful integration of e-learning into the current setup:

•    Motivation
•    Self-discipline
•    Capacity to learn alone or set aside time for study
•    Comprehension of the e-learning process
•    Availability of suitable tools, equipment’s and a dedicated assistance

Conclusion

The revolution in information communication technology demanded drastic changes in human life. In the current knowledge and information era, e-learning is becoming a more and more crucial component of education, particularly in the healthcare sector. Healthcare workers from all around the world can access readily available, flexible learning opportunities through eLearning. As a result of technological improvements, personalized, interactive learning experiences are replacing static digital learning resources in e-learning.

E-learning benefits all parties involved in the healthcare system, including the workforce, the organizations, and the nation. It also develops a future workforce that is adaptable and competitive on a worldwide scale.

References:

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Col Binu Sharma

Col Binu Sharma is a Senior Director of Nursing at the Max Healthcare group of hospitals. She is an integral part of the Hospital operations team and is also a certified NABH Assessor. Prior to this, she was engaged with Columbia Asia Hospitals group at a capacity of Senior Vice President – Nursing Services. She also served the Indian Army in the capability of nursing officer for two decades handling clinical and administrative responsibilities. She is the President for Infusion Nurses Society India - US affiliate chapter. She has been awarded with the Commendation Medal Eastern command for Exemplary nursing services, she is the recipient of the Florence Nightingale award in 2007 and she has recently been awarded by the Indian Achiever’s Forum with the “Women of Excellence” award. She has published a large number of articles on national and international nursing journals.

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