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Improving Health and Social Care with a free online course

Prof Vasilakis and colleagues reflect on the impact of their ongoing online course on Quality Improvement (QI) in Healthcare (next run starts 20 Jan 2020)

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In 2016, CHI² Director Professor Christos Vasilakis, along with Dr Tricia Woodhead and Anna Burhouse, developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Quality Improvement (QI) in Healthcare. Together with Dr Sian Smith-Lickess, they are now exploring the impact of this type of online training on healthcare professionals’ knowledge and confidence to take part in QI initiatives.

The protocol for this evaluation has been published as a peer-reviewed article in the BMJ Open

What are MOOCs?

Massive Open Online Courses provide people from all around the world with the opportunity to expand their education and learning for free. These online university short courses are usually completed over a set number of weeks using video lectures and relevant reading materials. Discussion forums encourage interaction between learners and with the educators.

Over the past decade, MOOCs have grown in popularity, and there have been many developed on a number of healthcare topics. While MOOCs don’t necessarily lead to formal qualifications, they enable people to gain new knowledge and professional skills on a range of topics. They are also a relatively inexpensive and flexible way to offer online training to people who don’t necessarily have the time to physically attend workshops or lectures.

The QI MOOC

In September 2016, we launched an accredited six-week QI MOOC, 'Quality Improvement in Healthcare: Making the Case for Change' which is hosted by the FutureLearn© platform.

The accredited QI MOOC aims to increase people’s knowledge and understanding of QI methods, and self-confidence in QI participation. This MOOC is open to everyone with an interest in improving quality and making a difference to patients’ safety and experience of care. This could include people working in health or social care organisations such as clinicians, trainees/registrars, allied health professionals, nurses, managers, administrators, caterers, porters, as well as patients and carers.

Since its launch in 2016 and as of November 2019, the QI MOOC has run ten times, and attracted around:

  • 20,000 joiners (those who registered for the course)
  • 10,000 learners (a joiner who views at least one step in a course)
  • 9000 active learners (a learner who goes on to mark at least one step as complete in a course)

Each week, the MOOC covers different topics to increase knowledge and understanding of QI approaches and methods, and empower learners to apply their new knowledge in practice. We deliver the course in many ways, including short lecture-style videos, interviews with experts, wrap-up videos at the end of each week, and links to additional reading and resources. We also try to encourage learners to reflect on their own QI practice and share their thoughts and ideas during online discussion to facilitate a community of learners and peer-support.

People have free access to the course for eight weeks, or they can pay a fee of £72 that gives them unlimited time access (as long the course is on the FutureLearn© platform), and a certificate of participation.

Next steps

Since the course started, most learners have told us that they have enjoyed taking the QI MOOC and also benefited from doing it. The next steps for us are to capture this information in a more formal way and find out whether the MOOC improves learners’ knowledge about QI methodology and also self-confidence in taking part, and perhaps even leading QI projects.

As part of the next round of the QI MOOC in January 2020, we will conduct a mixed-methods study, involving short online surveys (before and after the course) and a follow-up interview a few months after the MOOC, with a selection of participants to explore in more detail their experiences and any impact of doing the course.

This research is partially supported by the West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN). A bespoke evaluation (combining the RE-AIM and Kirkpatrick models) has been developed, and a protocol paper has been published

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