THE PANDEMIC LOCKDOWN AS A PUSH FACTOR FOR USING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AS ARENA FOR WORK INTEGRATED LEARNING: A STUDY OF AN INNOVATION PROJECT IN MUNICIPAL HEALTHCARE SERVICES

C. Gjellebæk , N. Fladeby

Østfold University College (NORWAY)
Background:
The healthcare sector is facing significant challenges related to demographic changes. The ongoing and upcoming changes are placing great demands on the ability of organizations, managers and employees to innovate and contribute to service development. Traditionally there has been limited focus on innovative work and change-processes in the educations related to healthcare as well as in the workplaces, but this is changing. Applying a work integrated learning approach in the organization can make it possible for healthcare professionals to learn and develop their competence through practical work with examples from their own workplaces. This paper is based on a longitudinal study of an innovation project in municipal healthcare sector. The innovation project where planned with learning activities and physical meetings between communities of practice representing different municipal institutions, providing a possibility to exchange experiences, learn from each other and co-create new knowledge. The pandemic situation made it necessary for the municipality to rethink in order to enable the project implementation, and as result digital technology was used as the learning arena and learning environment.

With this pandemic pushed transition as a starting point, our paper will explore experiences of implementing an innovation project through the use of digital technology as an arena for work integrated learning and as the learning environment.

Methods:
The study takes a qualitative approach. Individual interviews were conducted with participating employees and involved managers in advance of the project start, middle managers and employees were interviewed in focus groups halfway in the project process and at the end of the project. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results:
The findings from the interviews indicate that the different participants have a variation of experiences with digital technology as the learning environment. Using digital technology provides possibilities to meet across institutions, organizational levels and communities of practice despite the significant lack of time that characterizes the healthcare sector. On the other hand, varying skills and knowledge related to the use of digital technology and ICT were by some experienced as inhibiting the process.

Summary and implications for future research: In summary, experiences from the participants suggests that the pandemic-initiated transition to a use of digital technology as a learning environment can be positive for work integrated learning. At the same time it is important to facilitate activities and the practical content in line with the individual participant's needs and knowledge.