Despite Barriers, Education Providers, Health Professionals, and Students Perceive E-Learning to Be an Effective Method of Education
Childs, Sue, Elizabeth Blenkinsopp, Amanda Hall, and Graham Walton. “Effective E-Learning for Health Professionals and Students—Barriers and Their Solutions. A Systematic Review of the Literature—Findings from the HeXL Project.” Health Information & Libraries Journal 22.S2 (2005): 20-32.
Objective – To determine barriers or problems and possible solutions related to e-learning, and to determine the effectiveness of e-learning among health professionals and students.
Design – Systematic review of qualitative literature, in addition to interviews and questionnaires, to allow for triangulation of the data.
Setting – “The HeXL Project: Surmounting the Barriers to NHS E-Learning in the North-East.” The National Health Service (NHS) in the North-East of England, from May 2003 to March 2004.
Subjects – A systematic review of 57 qualitative studies on health and e-learning, phone interviews with 13 managers and trainers, and 149 questionnaires completed by users and non-users of e-learning. All participants of the interviews and questionnaires were staff and students of the NHS in the North-East of England.
Methods – The study used three methods to collect data to meet the objectives of the study. For the systematic review, the databases AMED (Allied and Alternative Medicine), ASSIA (Applied Social Sciences), CINAHL (Nursing and Allied Health), ERIC (Education), HMIC (health Management), LISA (Library and Information Sciences), PubMed (Medline), and Web of Science were searched using the terms “e-learning” or “computer assisted instruction”, and “health”, and “barriers.” Any type of research or comprehensive literature review was selected from the results to be included in analysis. Based on the findings from the systematic review, a semi-structured interview schedule was developed for use in phone interviews to be conducted with managers or e-learning trainers. Also based on the systematic review, questionnaires were developed and distributed to users and non-users of e-learning. The three methods permitted triangulation of the data.
Main results – The search produced 161 results of which 57 met the methodological criteria. The 57 studies categorized e-learning barriers and solutions into eight different issues: organizational, economics, hardware, software, support, pedagogical, psychological, and skills. Results from the interviews and questionnaires mirrored those of the systematic review. Barriers to e-learning included managing change, lack of skills, costs, absence of face-to-face learning, and time commitment. Solutions to the barriers of e-learning included blended learning, better design, skills training, removal of costs, and improved access to technology. There were, however, some discrepancies between the results from the systematic review and the interviews and questionnaires: barriers due to “lack of access to technology” (29) were not perceived as serious, suggested solutions did not include better communication and scheduling, and the solutions to provide trainer incentives and employment admission criteria were rejected. Users and potential users of e-learning mentioned one solution not found in the review: protected time during work to partake in e-learning. Results from the interviews and questionnaires demonstrated that managers, trainers, and learners thought e-learning to be effective.
Conclusion – The researchers answered the study’s questions to determine the perceived barriers and solutions to e-learning for the NHS in the North-East of England. Despite the barriers identified, it was also determined from the interviews conducted and questionnaires returned that managers, trainers, and learners perceive e-learning as an effective method of education for health professionals and students. Further research is needed to determine whether this perception is correct. The systematic review of the literature identified important “factors which need to be in place” for e-learning to effectively take place (29). The barriers and potential solutions identified are useful for those designing e-learning programs in any professional context. The results point to several requirements for e-learning success: national standards and strategies; curriculum integration; change management; flexible programming; skills training; and support and access to technology for managers, learners, and trainers. The authors of the article believe that librarians play an important role in e-learning and identify several areas in which librarians can contribute.
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