Rising To The Challenge With e-Learning

A 24-hour service is provided to over 400,000 residents of care homes across the UK. According to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) guidelines, all care workers must perform requisite training to ensure that they provide the service users with top quality care. However, in an increasingly struggling economy, ensuring that staff are adequately trained can prove to be a significant and costly challenge for care home managers.

Matt Rowland, senior product manager, care division of ThirdForce, a global provider of e-learning, looks at whether the answer to these challenges lies in education.

In order for the thousands of care home residents across the UK to access first class care and treatment, care workers need to be fully trained and knowledgeable about their sector. Caring for a number of residents of differing ages and illnesses, administering medicines and providing food safely are just a few of the topics that care workers must have a sound foundation of knowledge. But how do care home managers ensure that their homes are fully staffed to look after the residents, at the same time as ensuring that their staff are fully compliant with CSCI regulations?

Care home managers, resistant to shy away from the traditional forms of training such as classroom based tutorials, will stumble across a number of barriers. Missed sessions, travel to and from the training venue, overnight accommodation and covering absent staff are the four main contributors to substantial training costs. Arranging a time that is suitable for a number of employees can also prove exceedingly difficult. Furthermore, managers have to seek out a number of different training providers to cover a comprehensive training program.

An area that care home managers must be conscious of is that their staff may be of varying levels of ability. They may also speak a range of languages and English may not be their first language. This can cause difficulty in the classroom as learning and pace is often delivered to the group rather than the individual. Not only that; training, if delivered in a classroom, runs the risk of being one-way, lifeless and monotone.

Despite all these challenges, to a few care home managers, classroom based learning can seem like the only option. However there are alternative approaches. There is now considerable interest in how alternative learning technologies can be fully utilised.  For instance, the popularity of e-learning appears to be growing impressively with the care sector increasingly adopting this successful practice found in other industries.

Alive and clicking
e-Learning, a modern alternative to ‘pen and paper’ teaching methods, can be defined as computer based learning, encompassing training, education, just-in-time information, and communication. Essentially, e-learning enables care home managers to reap the benefits that computers and the internet provide.

e-Learning designed specifically for the care sector allows workers to take part in interactive courses to gain the requisite knowledge for their role.  Starting with basics such as an induction to delivering care and the rights of the service user or  resident, food safety and health & safety, can get the basics covered quickly and the carer up and running.  Further training such as Skills for Care knowledge sets, literacy and numeracy and underpinning knowledge for NVQs can all be achieved through e-Learning.  Adopting e-learning to cover a breadth of training needs typically delivers the greatest overall benefits. From the learner’s point of view this method of ‘try and see’ learning is 100 per cent more motivating, compared to the traditional ‘tell and test’ activity, as it builds on prior knowledge and allows for discovery to occur.

Engaging and empowering staff, through e-learning training programmes and guidance tailored to their specific roles in the organisation, is a key responsibility of service providers today. It is also their responsibility to train employees to listen to the service users. Residents and families must be given information about their human rights and how they can be expected to be treated. In order to fulfil this responsibility care workers must have a sound basis of knowledge.

Person Centred Planning (PCP)
Person Centred Planning is a central tenet of good care provision. Strong e-learning solutions, such as the ThirdForce portfolio, need to incorporate the PCP approach. PCP discovers and acts on what is important to an individual. It is a process of continual listening and learning, focusing on what is important to someone now and in the future. Care workers must realise that the care they provide to one resident may not be appropriate for another. It is essential that care workers not only provide activities that suit the individual, but also become aware that some residents just want company, to sit and chat about things on their minds.

In order for workers to truly understand a PCP approach, learning materials need to be relevant and on hand, 24/7. This is where e-learning comes into play. Content can be revisited for re-enforcement as and when convenient.  Many learners in the care industry find studying at their own pace, and at a time and place to suit aids their learning and also ensures minimum disruption to the daily work schedule. 

In order for care workers to truly grasp a sound understanding of their job role, interactive learning materials are a must. e-Learning provides materials for a range of abilities and learning styles. Multimedia, sound, animation and video enliven the presentation of factual information. Online multimedia scenarios provide ‘real life’ situations of delivering care. This, when viewed by the care worker, can increase their confidence that they too are delivering appropriate care to their residents. It is often the case that staff know what they would like to do, but lack the confidence, time or resources to put this into action. A problem reported by many care workers and home managers is over-checking of the residents; whereby carers are nervously over-checking throughout the night, due to a lack of knowledge and confidence within their role. This results in a disturbed night for many residents causing unnecessary confusion and upset.

How can e-learning guarantee change for the care home manager?
The most forward thinking e-learning solutions provide a comprehensive audit trail to remotely track and monitor learner progress at company, division, area, site and learner level.  This highlights to the manager underperforming areas and also identifies those performing above target.  It allows managers to confidently monitor, assess and improve compliance so that when a random inspection is carried out by the CSCI, all employees’ details, training records and qualifications are on hand. Evidence of mandatory training compliance can be accessed and printed instantaneously.

Strategically, e-learning supports streamlining, cost effectiveness and economies of scale.  This is achieved through reductions in the delivery costs of training as up-to-date content is accessible from one central source.  A reduction in travel costs, training centre hire costs and overnight accommodation is also achievable, as learners can study from their site of work or from the comfort of their own home.  As learners study individually there are no cost or time issues associated with missed courses or re-booking.

Most importantly, e-learning guarantees a consistently high quality of training for organisations who often have large geographically dispersed workforces.  It is cost effective and flexible to deliver.

The staff of the UK’s 400,000 care home residents have considerable power and influence over their well being. As a role laden with responsibilities and mandatory training requirements, care home managers must provide ample sector specific and efficient training to ensure that their staff are offering the residents the best quality of care that they are entitled to. e-Learning provides an efficient route to training, facilitating companies to undertake a modern and forward thinking approach. In this way, care home managers can raise standards, without the excuse of budgets, lack of equipment or time. Ultimately, care home staff will have heightened confidence in their ability to fulfil their job role.

For further information, please visit www.thirdforce.com
or call 020 8843 5500