Presentation at The 2007 Preparedness Summit in DC

In February a small group of us presented on aspects of using technology to disseminate curriculum and training media.
Dr. Brenda Elledge, Tracey Burton, myself authored a session entitled, “Pros and Cons of Digital Technology for Training and Evaluation.” The presentation focused on the “pros and cons associated with digital delivery and the capture of training and evaluation data as we seek to reach more geographically diverse audiences using podcasts” and other technology.
In short, we outlined the Southwest Center for Public Health’s (SWCPHP) lifecycle using technology. Here are some highlights of that session in DC (or you could click here for a .pdf of the PowerPoint slides we used):

  • Technical Evolution of TrainingSWCPHP started out using many traditional didactic modes of training and evaluation and has now moved towards a variety digital solutions for content delivery including, Flash video, Windows Streaming Media, and Podcasts, and specialized Learning Management Systems (LMS).
  • Video Capture/Playback Later – an early attempt to deliver content which consisted of taping a tabletop exercise (simulated course) on VHS and then playing it back for audiences. This media is limited by its lack of audience interaction (couldn’t see or hear them) and, of course, its poor quality. This solution was not utilized at length in favor of other solutions.
  • TV Studio Recordings – by contracting the services of a professional studio (in-house/on-campus), the overall quality was vastly improved; however, delivery (data CD) was still mundane and time-intensive for all involved.
  • Web Based Talking Heads – still using the TV studio’s professional quality, content was improved by the advent of “talking heads”: video (either embedded on CD or from Windows Streaming Media server) coupled with Microsoft PowerPoint slides, delivered by HTML (using MS PowerPoint Producer). Of course, this means that the audience must have certain technology available (internet access and/or Windows Media Player) and there was no IT support (at that time) to help facilitate this new technology. Yet, the stage was set to begin providing curriculum and content via the web in a professional package.
  • Integrated On Line Courses: BlackBoard – with the availability of internet-ready content was made available, the need to provide this to web audiences in an organized manner became apparent. Enterprise-level learning management systems (LMS), such as BlackBoard, were employed to serve up the media. While some elements were positive – BlackBoard was a recognised leader, content files were easy to upload to its server, and users had greater control and access to this media – there were some drawback as well. Most of these had to do with interaction, registration, access, and number of allowed BlackBoard users in conjunction with the campus’s terms of service (at that time). Adding non-campus users (content was made for a national and world-wide audience) was incrediably tedious, thus another LMS solution was sought.
  • Integrated On Line Courses: Independent Contractor – To solve these registration issues, SWCPHP contracted with a private company to create a custom-built LMS. Initially, this LMS both addressed the registration needs and provided organized/accessible digital content for online users. However, this trial-and-error process was made more difficult by the contractor being the only source of technical support (versus an entity such as BlackBoard, which has multiple tiers of support).
  • Digitizing Information – with the LMS in-place, much effort was dedicated to “digitizing” all content and data at the Center, which had previously relied on traditional content delivery (manuals, slides, etc.) and paper-based registration and evaluation documents. Solutions such as Teleform (optical character recognition), MS Access Databases, online Reporting Forms for SWCPHP’s out-of-state Partners, document scanning (and subsequent conversion into digital images), website traffic monitoring, and “narrowcasting” (using Podcasts series) became high-priority to maintain, organize, archive, and report on information from the Center. Of course, this transition to the digital realm relies heavily on resources (staff, software, equipment, and other budgetary considerations).
  • Future DirectionsSWCPHP continues to evolve towards more digital delivery in its efforts to continue training and curriculum in simulated environments, including creation of specialized, thematic “Toolkit” modules. Both 2D and 3D content is being developed in conjunction with partners and collaborators to provide a more interactive, immersive, and digital simulated training/learning environment. Sometimes called “serious games,” these simulations can be as simple or as intricate as need be, based on pedagogical goals.

There was much discussion and interaction from audience members at the 2007 Summit. Individuals were especially interested in SWCPHP’s venture into Podcasts and simulation. Efforts are now in the works to present this information at other formal and professional conferences.Click here to see the 2007 Summit Program Details.

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