A ‘Webolution’ in the making: Professional development anywhere, anytime!

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In today’s climate of rapid change, ongoing health restructuring and talent shortages, never has it been more important for organizations to strengthen and support healthy work environments. However, establishing a dynamic learning environment that supports a healthy workplace and the development of highly skilled and competent staff can present unique challenges for organizations faced with multi-site locations, vast geography and significant diversity in both the client and provider population.

As a knowledge and care exchange company, Saint Elizabeth Health Care (SEHC) is committed to fostering knowledge at all levels of the organization and providing learning opportunities to all of our staff. By blending a decade of product development experience with industry standards for instructional design, we’ve created a solution that has great applicability throughout the health care system – an innovative approach to professional development that supports connectivity and best practices, while promoting healthy work environments, now and in the future.

@YourSide Colleague is a Web-based e-learning, professional development and collaboration environment that offers multidimensional learning experiences, including: access to up-to-date learning content, tools and testing, as well as opportunities to interact with clinical experts and peers within online communities of learning.

@YourSide Colleague was the focus of a recent demonstration project involving 35 First Nations communities, Tribal Councils and their health services organizations; and Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB), Manitoba Region, with the support of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. An external evaluation of @YourSide Colleague by Lynda Atack, RN, PhD, identified three main benefits:

  • Rapid, 24/7 availability of information and resources for clinical and program management
  • Ongoing, convenient access to up-to-date information on best practices in health care
  • A valuable communication tool for distributed staff and managers/administrators

Implementing e-best practices Like traditional teaching and learning, an e-learning environment must incorporate two key characteristics to provide an engaging and valuable experience: intuitiveness of use and productivity in learning. Not a simple feat to accomplish when we don’t all learn in exactly the same way. At SEHC, our best practices in e-learning design and delivery have definitely been an evolution in the making.

From easy-to-navigate learning modules – including basic facets such as ‘eye-pleasing’ colours and button shapes, and ever-present menus – to a more robust search tool in the library, we look to our e-learners to help us better understand what makes for a worthwhile and engaging Web-based professional development experience.

Through the course of a number of internal and external initiatives involving more than 1,000 users, we’ve had the privilege of receiving and addressing a wealth of feedback – from requests for a single login to thread-based forums, to multiple file attachments and personal file management capabilities in our message centre. We’ve also incorporated a suite of functions into our online forums (The Exchange) that address both evidence-based instructional design and leading edge Web design and functionality.

In October 2004 SEHC launched a new and improved @YourSide Colleague to our community nursing staff across the province, bringing more than 1200 new users online. To date, the level of uptake, enthusiasm and positive feedback has not only been overwhelming but outright inspiring!

Our Colleague users (both internal and external), the e-learning industry and our own evidence-based experience keeps us focused on what we believe is a very important best practice design philosophy: Make it pleasing and engaging, while being sure it is as empowering as it is relevant. Much like any good learning experience, wouldn’t you agree?

To meet the challenges of today’s health care environment, organizations like SEHC are stepping up to deliver creative and effective solutions to professional development – both for the fulfillment of our staff and the health of our clients.