ETSU Goes Online to Reach Public Health Professionals
Case Study - Tennessee Public Health Training Center-LIFEPATH
About Tennessee LIFEPATH at East Tennessee State University
LIFEPATH is Tennessee's first and only Public Health Training Center. It provides academic and nonacademic training opportunities for the public health workforce across Tennessee and southwest Virginia. LIFEPATH provides a home for the collaborative partnerships between Tennessee's academic public health training providers and Tennessee's public health workforce, and provides comprehensive competency-based training for that workforce.
Online Training Needs Assessment
The Tennessee Public Health Training Center-LIFEPATH at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) had a distinct challenge and opportunity. The training center is a separate, grant-funded center that ETSU was awarded as part of a federal grant. It was tasked to create a new and innovative online training program for a select group of nonacademic learners, namely, public health professionals. The online training would consist of modular continuing education programs for professional development among public health officials in the states of Tennessee and southwest Virginia.
It was critical that there was a history of testing and results along with the ability to substantiate that employees read and understood the policies and procedures within the jail system. With the "jail management system," the IT department was tasked with building an Access database, moving files within the system and creating spreadsheets. They could not query the training and could not track the data and results as required.
A Single, Contained Online Training Solution
While the university already had an online training system in place for its extensive academic programs, the IT department could not add the center to its platform due to security, login and other proprietary issues. The center Director, Paula Masters, set out to find a Learning Management System (LMS) to suit their training needs, plus meet some unique and stringent federal guidelines. The Director's search led her to FlexTraining, and after a live, one-on-one software demonstration, she knew she had found a system that met almost all of the center's needs.
Customizations Rounded Out The Program
FlexTraining had the core features, integrated menus and technical platform to meet the center's needs. The final decision, and implementation, hinged on system customizations that were necessary to capture and report data for federal grant requirements. The Director laid out their list of prerequisites, and the FlexTraining IT team designed, integrated and launched each item with speed and precision.
The customizations included modifications to the student registration and enrollment pages. These select changes generate unique data fields to comply with the grant program's requisite capture of information for each student. Custom reports can now be generated on an individual level, with additional reporting in the aggregate. Overall, there were quite a few customizations designed specifically to meet their compliance and training needs.
Maximizing System Features
Since the center's training program is used for nonacademic, off-site learners, everything has to be asynchronous. The learning center does not maintain gradebooks, so training is considerably different than the academic environment. Learners take continuing education courses for professional development in the public health sector.
Director Masters indicates her favorite aspect of the system is the "Reports" section and says it is key to what they do. She must ensure that they are hitting the correct target audience while meeting public health training competencies. Reporting is instrumental to the program's success, and she uses standard reports that are already integrated in FlexTraining as well as the custom reporting feature to meet ad hoc and specialized reporting needs.
The "Learners Menu" allows the center to manage student data, email students and generate data points for reporting. The Learners menu, in particular, is useful for them so they can enroll students, one at a time or in bulk, and then send the user course and program information. Also, they can assist technically challenged students with enrollment and registration as necessary.
Meeting Their Students' Needs
All learners in the Public Health Training Center are public health officials and are external to ETSU. The students are located primarily in Tennessee and southwest Virginia, although the student-base has grown, the program has expanded and the center has become the online educational center for 12 other states. In 2013, the center trained more than 12,000 students utilizing their online training platform.
Director Masters describes the overall benefits of implementing the FlexTraining system as students having the ability to access their training 24/7, the online training platform is user-friendly and it delivers content-rich courses on-demand. And, their grant would not be as successful without the online system. While some of the benefits are intangible, their training team agrees that having the independent, flexible and fully-contained program is "great," and they're glad they had the chance to introduce this genre of public health compliance training. She states that most public health communication is government-generated and doesn't always do a good job of offering comprehensive training for the professionals. Budget constraints and other factors contribute to this short-fall.
However, the Tennessee Public Health Training Center has created a recognized and successful online training program with an expanding student base, self-paced study, competency-based courses, custom reporting and 24/7 access for students and program administrators.