eLearning maximises training effectiveness in the fight against Ebola

Technology challenges established boundaries of passing information from A to B

Never more so (and never more so is it required) than when dealing with an international crisis, requiring information to be created quickly, amended quickly and communicated instantly to a multilingual audience.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak presented a logistical challenge for those responsible for delivering training to the teams being sent to Sierra Leone. Traditional training techniques, or ‘chalk and talk’ wouldn’t work due to geography, language and also the speed with which new information about Ebola was coming in from the field.

We were delighted when approached by the British Army Training Development Team (TDT) to see if we could build a solution to support their programme to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Our task was to create an e-learning portal in two weeks, in conjunction with the TDT experts, which could be used to support Operation Gritrock, the UK’s response to the Ebola crisis in Africa.

The solution had to deliver multilingual content to geographically diverse teams and supplement classroom based training both before and after classroom tuition as well as educate those in the field.

We joined military medical experts and learning development specialists to develop a bespoke, comprehensive, structured, modular learning programme. The solution included:

  • Video tutorials developed in a replica field hospital in the UK and communicated to the Army and scientists on the ground
  • Interactive tutorials
  • A mobile enabled microsite for storing and displaying training content
  • A learning management system underpinned the microsite logging student access

The packaged elements could be made accessible world-wide 24/7 for healthcare professionals, Non-Governmental Organisation personnel and Sierra Leone nationals to ensure standardisation of processes and practice. The material was provided to teams before and during deployment to maximise the effectiveness of their training. Successful application of learning theory meant all involved whether illiterate or highly qualified, surgeon or local assistant could operate safely in an unprecedented hazardous biological environment.

This approach highlights increasingly innovative ways in which e-learning is forming an integral part of training and it is used effectively to reinforce classroom content.

The theory behind the solution was ‘Flipped Learning’, providing interactive and video content in advance of classroom training which leads to a greater mastery in skills by the end of the programme. Using the instructional stages of Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate and Practice (EDIP) it creates the opportunity, via online media, for the student to view the Explanation and Demonstration phases at their own speed and convenience, off site, on their preferred device, before the lesson commences.

Upon arrival in the classroom, armed with their prior knowledge the student can move directly to the Imitating and Practising phases, maximising classroom time to gain mastery of the skill as opposed to the traditional approach of sitting passively whilst being read into the subject before practice could commence.

Since this project we have worked with Army Training to develop other technology based tools to supplement classroom based learning, this time post-classroom (Imitate and Practice). We have developed digital training products for sniper training and mortar training which allow students to hone their skills outside the classroom, using scientifically accurate data which reinforces classroom learning.

I am delighted that we were able to play a small but significant part in the success of Operation Gritrock. The Army’s eLearning solution has been recognised for innovation and has now been shortlisted for the eLearning Awards. [Updated: we won the Gold Award in the Public Sector category!]

The films on our website provide an insight into the challenges faced by the brave men and woman who took part in Operation Gritrock and the role eLearning played in supporting them.

About the author

Fergus Bailie is the Chief Executive of CDS, an agency providing communication and data solutions to the private sector, the  MOD, Government and organisations that deliver, support and protect the UKs National Infrastructure.

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