Learn how to step forward: analyze your learners’ digital needs and digital literacy to help create better training programs

Written by Briony Frost, Learning & Development Specialist on Thursday 1st July 2021

The COVID-19 global health crisis is not yet a thing of the past, but healthcare training providers and educators are already being asked what learning will look like post pandemic. While, for some, there is a strong desire to return to familiar, face-to-face learning environments and modes of delivery, a significant proportion of training already took place remotely pre-pandemic, via self-directed e-learning programs and on-demand digital content. Hybrid learning is likely to become the new normal, and learning providers will be required to make smart choices about where to invest in digital innovation to maximize their team’s training opportunities.

Over a series of five articles, OPEN Health L&D will explore the scope for digital innovation when creating a learning program through the lens of the instructional design framework, ADDIE. The ADDIE acronym describes the five phases of the learning program creation process: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. This week, we’re looking at analysis: what do you need to analyze your learners’ digital needs and digital literacy to make hybrid learning impactful, effective, and efficient for your team?

What is hybrid learning?

Hybrid learning is a step-up from blended learning. In the latter, training programs and events may combine both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. For instance, in a blended scenario, a cohort of learners might collectively attend an expert’s talk on a new drug therapy in-person and engage in a Q&A session, before independently completing an e-learning deck containing the drug’s clinical trial data. In a hybrid scenario, the cohort might participate in the same talk and Q&A session, but attendees would be able to do so either in-person (at a conference center) or remotely (via simultaneous live-stream) with interaction between both speakers and the audience. Once again, the cohort would complete the e-learning deck remotely, perhaps re-engaging with other participants via a digital discussion forum.

The flexibility, breadth of access, convenience, and practicality of high-quality hybrid learning are just a handful of its many benefits for healthcare professionals striving to fit training into their busy working lives. To maximize the impact of the hybrid experience, attention must be paid to the digital knowledge and skills of the learners, whether you are training doctors, nurses, medical science liaisons, commercial, or other healthcare teams. Key questions that arise for those who want to step forward into the future of hybrid training are:

  • How do you identify the digital strengths and needs of your learners, and what needs to be done to close any knowledge and skills gaps in the digital domain?
  • How can you identify and select the right digital tools and platforms to meet your learners’ needs and enhance their competencies to serve their professional roles?
  • How can you keep your approach practical, simple, and effective when facing a cornucopia of different ideas and approaches?
  • What lessons have been learned from COVID-19 adaptations and how are these best applied to create future good practice for learners?

Analyze your digital learning needs

We’ve previously discussed the value of starting the planning of a training program with a learner needs analysis to ensure your managers, team, and learning facilitators all:

  • Share the same objectives and deliverables
  • Craft clear, measurable learning objectives to help create a cohesive and comprehensive program
  • Invest time and money only in what you need
  • Springboard off past training success and future-proof your provision
  • Motivate all members of the team by involving them in defining their needs, goals, and development pathways

The first step towards digital innovation can be taken here. As well as gathering insights into your learners’ scientific knowledge gaps, you can also explore:

  • Where their digital competencies need enhancement – how they combine their knowledge with the skills they use to apply or communicate that knowledge via technology in their roles
  • Which media they are using most commonly for professional interactions and how effective it is
  • Where their healthcare partners are encountering challenges receiving or reusing digital information
  • Learner confidence using your current learning platforms
  • the learner experience when engaging with your current digital learning resources

In the current climate, digital skills gaps are quickly highlighted in professional interactions and patterns across teams are most easily addressed collectively, so make sure you give learners the opportunity to develop their digital skills alongside their knowledge enhancement training. Combining knowledge and digital skills training helps to create a real-world training experience, which leads to better retention and application of learning.

Choose your digital tools and platforms

We’ve also discussed our priority considerations for selecting digital tools and digital platforms for your learning programs. While some areas we’ve previously highlighted are often better explored at the design phase of the process, others can be asked at the analysis stage so it’s important to get in touch with your digital team or link them up with your learning provider as soon as possible. Key questions can be asked around the following areas:

  • What resources are available?
  • Are your systems adequately integrated so that learning management systems (LMS) can join up with other in-house systems to enable relevant information logging and sharing?
  • Are your digital tools able to host the kind of learning content, activities, and assessments that enable learners’ knowledge and skills needs to be met?
  • What additional platforms, tools, or capabilities are available to meet the digital competency needs of your learners?
  • Can any required additional digital skills training be joined up with scientific content-based learning?
  • What does past feedback indicate about the quality of the learning experience and how can this be improved? Think particularly about access from all locations and devices, platform stability, and easy navigation for a positive learner experience.
  • Does your digital platform meet accessibility and equality standards in the relevant countries? Some countries, like the UK, are very strict on what is considered acceptable when making training fairly available to all learners.

It is well worth getting some of this work underway now to avoid any unexpected technological issues or new training gaps later in the process, which may hold up development, and ensure you have allocated budget to the right places from the start.

Keep it simple

The pandemic has led to the promotion of a cornucopia of new and enhanced learning solutions based around digital skills and digital innovation. When trying to find the right fit for your team, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed. If you work with a learning provider, or as a learning provider, the questions suggested above and undertaking of a needs analysis can help you swiftly whittle down what your learners actually require, what you can afford, and the strengths and weaknesses of your current solutions. Here are our tips for keeping it simple:

  • Innovate where your needs analysis and/or scoping call indicates gaps in current learner knowledge, competencies, and confidence. Fill those first and invest in bonus ideas afterwards if you have capacity.
  • A robust, secure, reliable, and user-friendly platform, which serves learning needs at a basic level but can be upgraded to allow the incorporation of more inventive and stimulating solutions, is worth its weight in gold.
  • Familiar and effective content engagement platforms, tools, and media are often quicker to implement than trying to introduce your learners to new platforms as well as new learning content. If you’re going to change your technologies, allow time for your learners to adjust, as well as to assimilate their training.
  • Accessibility and equality-based solutions are worth the investment; they don’t just benefit those with specific learning needs, they provide a better experience for all learners.
  • If you have the scope and budget, don’t be afraid to try something new and refine it later, if it isn’t instantly as successful as you’d hoped.
  • Seek good quality metrics and detailed quantitative and qualitative learner feedback to make sure digital learning needs have been met.

Above all, keep your digital team involved throughout the ADDIE process; they are valuable allies and, if kept informed, can help you solve problems before they arise.

OPEN Health’s L&D team brings together unique skill sets, a wealth of healthcare training, and extensive communications experience. We have a range of exciting ways to upskill your learners in their roles and provide them with the digital proficiency they need to work as partners in the new normal for the healthcare industry. To discover how we can help you make use of industry quality standards for learning and development and establish your training benchmarks, please get in touch.

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