The Unanticipated Benefits of Virtual Trainings
By Sarah Snyder , specialist , Global Health
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic , APHL staff , like many others , learned to adapt to full-time teleworking . For the Global Health department , working across 14 countries and numerous time zones prepared us for this change . However , as the virus continued to spread , it became clear that without being able to meet in-person , we would need to find new ways to provide trainings in a time when competent laboratory staff were more important than ever .
Adapting to a Virtual Classroom
In the summer and fall 2020 , APHL staff and consultants began the task of converting a one week , in-person Quality Systems Management ( QSM ) Training for Indonesia to a virtual platform . With over 30 hours of content in this training , there were concerns about participants experiencing Zoom fatigue or not committing their full attention to the training . To prevent this , it was decided to break the training into eight four-hour sessions , Monday through Thursday , over two weeks . Sessions were pre-recorded in the participants ’ language , Bahasa Indonesia , to ensure accurate scientific translations , and the recordings were played live with breaks for Q & A and group work .
Traditionally , at the end of the in-person training , participants are tasked with creating a quality manual for their laboratories . In the past , due to budget constraints , APHL had not been able to effectively follow-up with participants on development of the quality manuals . The cost savings from conducting virtual training enabled APHL to establish a posttraining mentorship program , allowing participants to meet monthly with APHL consultants Kim Lewis , Frances Downes and Dave Mills to discuss the progress of their manuals and receive mentorship on the QSM activities in their laboratories . This mentorship program has been a tremendous success and would not have been financially possible had the training been conducted in person .
While there is a lot to consider when choosing whether to conduct a training in person or virtually , we learned that cost savings and learner flexibility can result in net positive outcomes for both facilitators and participants and should be considered when developing future training plans .
Establishing New Connections
In May 2020 , Becton , Dickinson and Company
( BD ) approached APHL to help develop a virtual leadership training in partnership with the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan
( WDI ). BD recognized the need to continue providing trainings during the pandemic and wanted to utilize APHL ’ s technical expertise and WDI ’ s educational expertise to convert an in-person training to a virtual format . APHL ’ s “ Foundations of Laboratory Leadership Management ” training was re-worked into an eight week virtual training , “ Laboratory Leadership and Management Essentials .” This training was disseminated using WDI ’ s online ExtendEd platform , a proprietary learning management system designed for online adult learning programs .
Participants from across East Africa logged in each week to complete a pre-recorded session and weekly assignment . The pre-recorded sessions offered participants the flexibility to learn at their own speed and pause the recording when needed , thus accommodating different schedules and learning styles . At the end of each week , participants joined a weekly call with APHL staff members Clement Phiri and Edwin Ochieng to discuss the assignment and ask any questions . This gave participants the ability to fully digest the information in their own time and work on activities at their own pace , resulting in more thoughtful discussions during the weekly call .
Over the past year , APHL has faced numerous changes in the way it works due to the pandemic . While there is a lot to consider when choosing whether to conduct a training in person or virtually , we learned that cost savings and learner flexibility can result in net positive outcomes for both facilitators and participants and should be considered when developing future training plans . n