H. Salihu, A. Salinas, M. Nash, J. Salemi

University of South Florida (UNITED STATES)
Rationale: The use of instructional technology in institutions of higher education is increasing around the world, but few have successfully incorporated a rapidly changing array of web-based tools into curriculum development efforts. Contributory to this process is that trainees’ insights are essential in the development of educational curricula and evaluation, even though participatory approaches are less frequently implemented. Methods that integrate digital technologies with curriculum development and educational evaluation with input from trainees are needed for greater reach and participation of trainees during all program stages while taking advantage of the unique aspects of the web.

Objective: To demonstrate how trainee participatory methods for curriculum development and evaluation can be implemented using web-based and cell phone communication technology for the enhancement of skills acquired by the public health workforce in conducting comparative effectiveness research.

Methods: A case study was conducted with a group of eight public health professionals from the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida. Possessing diverse areas of expertise, including medicine, epidemiology, biostatistics, and the social sciences, each participant collaborated during the formative stages of an e-learning program for the enhancement of public health workforce skills in comparative effectiveness research. A participative learning climate was facilitated through a trainer-trainee partnership during the needs assessment process, implementation, and formative evaluation of the comparative effectiveness research e-learning/mobile-learning series using a variety of internet and communication technology tools, such as text messaging, audience response system, online surveying, emailing, blogging, and social media. Logic model development and a modified Delphi evaluation were conducted to determine useful elements of the program, sources of satisfaction, weaknesses, and suggestions for program improvement.

Results: Participants demonstrated appreciation of the integration of web-based and cellphone communication technology into the implementation and assessment of the learning series. Five main themes summarizing the utility of the series emerged from the evaluation: use of digital technology, analytical software exercises, real world application, readings, and social interactions with professionals of diverse disciplines. Subsequent rounds of the Delphi indicated that there was general agreement on the aspects most useful for e-learning, including the flexibility of online learning and the use of mobile technologies to communicate and assess the course. Participants revealed opportunities for improvement, including additional content, variety in assessment strategies, in class exercises, a revamped learning management system, and an increased level of interaction. Open dialogue using blogs, revealed factors contributing to program deficiencies permitting to establish an ongoing quality improvement of future e-learning endeavors.

Conclusion: Instructional and communication technology advances can be successfully integrated into curriculum development efforts providing unique advantages to enhance trainees’ participation and foster program improvement. Instructors at institutions of higher education could take advantage of educational informatics technology to enhance professional experiences and learning methods.