Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Data Management System Integrating Web-Based Training and Randomized Trials

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Data Management System Integrating Web-Based Training and Randomized Trials

Article excerpt

Introduction

The World Wide Web makes interactive web courses available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. Businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, health plans and governmental organizations favor such courses because this type of instruction provides access to cutting edge knowledge, transcends state and national boundaries, and is a means to maintain a trained workforce. Research findings on educational technology show promising results. For example, physicians participating in internet-based continuing medical education had significant knowledge and skill gains comparable or superior to physicians attending in-person workshops (Fordis, King, Ballantyne, Jones, Schneider, et al. 2005). These findings are echoed in a study of interns completing computer-based learning whose knowledge gains were equal to those of interns attending in-person lectures (Davis, Chryssafidou, Zamora, Davies et al., 2007). Computer engineering supervisors' knowledge of ways to support mental health-troubled subordinates improved following web-based training (Kawakami, Kobayashi, Takao, & Tsutsumi, 2005), as did the knowledge and skills of raters conducting efficacy evaluations in depression studies (Kobak, Engelhardt et al., 2006). Counselors were more able to link clients to 12-Step Programs following web-training (Sholomskas & Carroll, 2006) and web-training was superior to a manual-only approach for educating counselors in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) (Sholomskas, Syracuse-Siewert, et al., 2005). Another recent study of CBT showed an increase in substance abuse counselors' knowledge and confidence in applying this treatment method following completion of a webcourse and a small number of weekly supervision meetings (Weingardt, Cucciare, Bellotti, & Lai, 2009). However, findings from studies of on-line courses and e-learning systems (Chan & Robbins, 2006; Weingardt & Villafranca, 2005) show the need to address the "goodness of fit" between the technology and learners' needs as well as organizational needs.

Our research and training team was faced with such a challenge when we received a five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop and deliver an innovative web-course to trainees across the country, and conduct a large-scale randomized study of the course's effectiveness. We designed the multi-module web-course to improve substance abuse counselors' knowledge and skills in applying cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and be asynchronously delivered. We designed the randomized trial to compare the performance of web-course-trained participants (intervention group) with the performance of printed-manual-trained participants (comparison group) to determine the effectiveness of the web-course in equipping counselors with CBT skills.

A DMS was needed to support all aspects of the study: web-course delivery and management, as well as randomized trial management. A review of the literature and exploration of systems in development revealed no system that was appropriate for our needs. We subsequently participated in the development of a system that met most of our needs.

In the following pages, we describe the innovative web-course we developed, the randomized trial that evaluated the effectiveness of the web-course, the other data management systems we reviewed, and the requirements for the DMS needed to support our project as a whole. The major focus is on the requirements for a DMS that operates at the intersection of web course management and randomized trial systems, and the extent to which the system we developed satisfied those requirements. Our goal is to help organizations who seek to do similar research (a) examine the types of systems requirements for such randomized trials, (b) compare their own systems requirements to those of our project, (c) think creatively about how a system can meet their needs or how it must be customized for their particular study, and perhaps, (d) build a system that best fits their needs. …

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