Digital HealthNews Letter

Journey to Implement an e-Learning Management System (ELMS) for Professions Supplementary to Medicine and Paramedical students

The Education Training & Research (ET&R) unit of the ministry of health is the focal point in policy formulation, providing technical guidance related to training and coordinating basic training programmes for all staff categories except for basic degree programmes for Medical Officers and Dental Surgeons. (18 Nurses Training Schools, 21 Professions Supplementary to Medicine (PSM) and Paramedical Training Schools with 18 training Programmes, 8 Regional Training Centres). The Unit is responsible for the capacity building of the health workforce through post basic, induction and in-service training programmes.

When the country went into a lockdown on the 20th of March 2020, following the COVID 19 situation, training programmes of all these schools were brought to a halt. Since there wasn’t any eLearning platform in place, the education programmes could not continue. A request was made by the ET&R unit to the Health Information Unit of the Ministry of Health for an ELMS to continue the training of the 21 PSM and Paramedical Training Schools. A total of 963 students and 100 Tutors were attached to these schools, therefore, it was important to identify their requirements and assess their readiness for eLearning prior to establishing an ELMS.

The general objective was to build a low cost, easy to use and sustainable ELMS for Paramedical & PSM schools in four weeks. Specific objectives were,

  1. To assess the readiness level of students, Tutors & Schools for proposed ELMS
  2. To build an ELMS catering the requirements of students, tutors and schools.
  3. To provide continuous support and ensure sustainability

In readiness assessments for tutors and students, the ICT knowledge, skills and attitudes were explored. Also, in readiness assessment for schools, the available infrastructure was explored.

Following the request from the ET&R unit, a working group was formed and a strategic decision was taken to create the platform at a low cost, therefore, the Moodle platform was chosen as it was free and open source. Also, it was decided to host the platform in a safe and secure server such as Lanka Government Cloud. The principals of the schools were given an overview of the ELMS and readiness assessments were done for the students, tutors and institutes. The readiness assessment showed that both the students and the tutors were having a positive impression on the ELMS. Addressing the requirements and needs elicited in readiness assessments, the tutors and the principals were then extensively trained on how to create their course in a Moodle platform. A Test course was created within the Moodle platform for the users to revise and practice what was taught. Continuous support was provided by creating a WhatsApp group in which the queries were answered within three hours and solutions were given within 24 hours. The e-learning management system comprises 16 courses and 1000+ activities which include assignments, quizzes and surveys. with over 10000 engagement hours. Conducting the classes as well as course management was done entirely online, without any physical meetings. In a catastrophic era, which disrupted the conventional methods of learning and teaching; the challenge was to utilize minimal resources to set up initial technical requirements, provide training to teachers to formulate the courses and to train the students to utilize the platform efficiently. The main facet of innovation is undertaking the entire project fully online with a group of individuals who are not accustomed to coping with digital technologies. Besides, they were strained due to the unexpected public calamity. The whole project was carried out in a way where the health information unit and the ET& R were the focal points, and the units meticulously planned the entire project in collaboration. Strategic planning was the key to success with a vision of self-sustainability, where the training of trainers was carried out via the same platform. Going fully digital in a resource-constrained setting was the trigger for frugal innovation where the commitment of the teams at the national level resulted in an intriguing success.

With the sensational success of the ELMS, HIU received several more requests to create ELMS for Nursing, midwife, PHI Schools and Health Promotion bureau. 

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