One requirement that hospitals in the U.S. must maintain for accreditation is to train healthcare personnel on high-risk issues. This includes topics like the type of protective equipment to wear, avoiding prescription fraud, reporting safety issues and dealing with workplace violence. These annual courses are typically updated with the latest policy and scientific information, but are often a jumble of unrelated topics.
I was hired to rework one of these compliance courses to meet my client’s accreditation requirement. The audience was medical providers, which are healthcare personnel that render medical care, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and those with similar roles.
There are no surprises here. Providers are very busy, already know a lot, and do not look forward to this type of training. Any more bad news? The course had about 15 mostly unrelated topics that the target audience needs to plow through every year. Many different SMEs contribute content from their area of expertise. Each SME probably considered the content they contributed to be the most critical of all. It probably was.
Although this could be the perfect scenario for game-based learning, there was a short time frame for getting this completed. Also, asking the audience to go through the same simplistic game (which it would have been) year after year is asking a lot of them. Instead, I landed on the idea of an interactive magazine theme for this project. There were no page turns as you see in Flash-based formats. The user clicked a button to go from one two-page spread to the next. But there were questions with response choices and informative feedback.
Here were the advantages I considered the magazine format to have:
- Providers read medical journals to keep their knowledge updated, so this is a familiar format.
- Magazines have articles on different topics and this course covered a range of topics contributed by SMEs from a wide spectrum of fields. I could transform the topics into interesting articles.
- Rote memorization of the content would not be as effective as demonstrating its usefulness on the job. When possible, the articles would allow more leeway to feature stories or some type of relevant connection to the job.
- Journals typically have an introduction by the editor. I could use an introduction by a fictitious editor as a means to discuss the values of the hospital written by one of the SMEs.
- Brief questions and interactions within the magazine could serve as reinforcement of key points and allow us to remove the test at the end, which I am sure no one appreciated. The feedback to responses would guide learning.
- With a magazine theme, there would be more opportunities for creative writing. I could use a journalistic approach to titles, subtitles and articles that would make the course appealing.
- Sidebars in a magazine present additional or explanatory content related to the main article in graphics and text. This would present an opportunity to enhance the content in a unique and engaging way.
- It seemed as though updates would be easier on a big magazine spread and it wouldn’t be difficult to rewrite introductions and stories from year to year.
- It would be a fun challenge to simulate the writing and design of a magazine.
For tools, I used Storyline 360, Photoshop and Illustrator to create the magazine. Here are some of the features I like about the magazine format.
1) A magazine lends itself to focusing on feature articles. This is a good way to manage unrelated topics. Visual design tip: notice the head partially covers the magazine title. I first discovered this while waiting in line at the supermarket checkout. This is a common design approach for magazine covers. Since then, I’ve scoured magazine sites for visual design and writing ideas. Magazines have a lot to offer!
2) The table of contents works well as a menu. The user interface allows the user to return to the TOC at any time with a button in the upper right (see the last screen capture). Some of the article titles were based on journalistic techniques.
3) The layout is flexible enough to handle two columns on one page. It’s easy to sprinkle in questions that focus on key information and reinforce learning. This allowed me to remove the test at the end. Rather than using a “Submit” button on interactions, I used a “Check Answer” button. I think this subtle difference promotes self-directed learning.
I like this format for highly educated adult learners. It may work with other audience groups too. It’s a little more sophisticated than the typical eLearning courses they take. The articles can be written with a little more interest. And there is no tracking of how they respond to questions.