Online Learning in Public Health Education

Article excerpt

With the advancement of technology over the years, there has been a vast expansion in the use of distance learning for employment training purposes. One of the main benefits of online versus traditional training is that it gives instructors the opportunity to teach pupils who, because of traveling distance and transport limitations or other access challenges, would be unable to participate if the content weren't offered via the Internet. Another advantage most are unaware of is the effectiveness of online education. The latest data from a meta-analysis concluded that online education seems just as efficient as traditional education, and further suggested that students in online learning environments have a greater opportunity to expand their knowledge than other students taught in more traditional methods (1).

Online learning is becoming an invaluable tool for many instructors in the held of public health. Unfortunately, there are many problems that may arise from public health training because of the overall complexity and nature of public health in the United Slates. Every state for example, has diverse laws concerning public health--some of which may be obsolete and insufficient in certain circumstances (2). Furthermore, the issues pertaining to public health are profuse and vary significantly.

The goals of this article are to offer some strategic planning for online public health trainers, and to provide a thorough understanding of the potential benefits for adult workers who might be interested in online public health education.

Ideas for Online Training Instructors

Become Computer Savvy: It is crucial for instructors to feel comfortable operating a computer and its components--a necessity for online training. Of utmost importance is the complete understanding of the learning management system (LMS) instructors will be using. This should be first and foremost since the LMS acts as a basis for student-instructor communication during the training.

To become an online training instructor, in health care or in any field, it is imperative that you be more efficient in computer usage than the lay person. Microsoft Office, for instance, should be known and used with absolute efficiency. The applications within this suite are synergistically compatible with one another, so your understanding of even the most advanced tools will make you a well-rounded instructor. Other common computer programs public health instructors should be familiar with include Adobe Reader, along with the Web browser(s) and anti-virus software that are currently being used.

Take Advantage of the Internet: Regular use of the Internet can simultaneously make the job easier and more successful. A perfect example would be to employ the use of Webinars. The portmanteau "Webinar" originates from the words, "Web-based seminar." A Webinar is different from a Webcast because Webinars are interactive between the presenter(s) and the audience, whereas Webcasts can only transmit information one-way--consequently inhibiting any interaction whatsoever. Therefore, Webinars offer a huge advantage to online trainers because they are able to review criticism, ask/answer questions and initiate debates. In addition to seminars, Webinars are also utilized for workshops, lectures and presentations.

Another great way for trainers to benefit from using the Internet is to provide online chat hours to their pupils. This would be similar in fashion and design to a university professor having office hours for their students, but instead of meeting trainers face-to-face, the meeting would take place in cyberspace via the Internet.

Choose Web Sites Wisely: Specific types of Web sites geared to online communities, video-sharing, social networking and blogging can be integrated into online training. Though some of those particular Web sites may prove priceless to trainers, others might cause more harm than good; therefore, a conscientious effort needs to be made when choosing which of these Web sites to employ. …