Effective educational delivery models have changed forever with the advent of new virtual technologies and new understandings about how people learn. The organizations that are strategically implementing these new approaches to learning will set themselves apart for years to come. The Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance offers a set of highly contextualized, online learning programs that range from convenient, self-directed research resources to highly interactive mentorship programs. Online learning has grown significantly over the past decade. The COVID pandemic acted as an accelerator for online learning across all levels. Research and Markets forecast the Online Education Market will reach $350 Billion by 2025, globally.
Additionally, one of the ways to stand out as an organization and to retain employees is to provide them with specialized training and development opportunities. This is especially key in retaining millennials, as two-thirds believe it’s management’s job to provide them with continuous development opportunities in order for them to stay, according to a Deloitte report. The Alliance’s professional education model of specialized and relevant eLearning programs for organ donation and transplantation professionals is based on convenience and interactivity to help individuals and organizations thrive.
“Our model is interdisciplinary in nature,” says Karri Hobson-Pape, executive director of The Alliance. “We always engage the perspectives of both donation and transplantation professions. Our learning experiences provide personalized knowledge that professionals can immediately put into practice. The varying levels of interactivity and convenience in our learning program portfolio provide organ donation and transplantation professionals with opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills and interact with experts in ways that work for them.”
“Professionals in organ donation and transplantation have always relished time together and for decades it’s been a community where there have been informal mentors and mentees. Now, The Alliance is facilitating greater access nationally and our professionals are building community through the interactive nature of The Alliance’s learning programs.”
ANA HANDS, MD
Board Chair, The Alliance
Vice President, International Health Services and Transplant Services, Ochsner Health
“The Alliance’s educational programs have become part of our organization’s culture,” says Jan Finn, Alliance Board member and president and CEO of Midwest Transplant Network. “Their programs take place during the work week and attendees bring insights and learning from programs back into the organization and into their actual work. They continue to talk about the topic with their colleagues and because of those ongoing dialogues, insights are applied.”
The New Science of Learning
Fundamental new understandings of both learning and the brain are transforming approaches to education. The Alliance’s portfolio of learning programs for organ donation and transplantation professionals is based on the latest understandings of those neural and cognitive processes.
Additionally, with the COVID pandemic forcing millions of learners out of the classroom to learn at home, the pace of change in the delivery of online education has been dramatic. Sanjay Sarma, head of Open Learning at MIT and co-author of Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn, is an advocate for transforming online professional education using science-informed knowledge.
“The brain is not a sheet of paper for the professor to write on,” said Sarma during an October 2020 keynote address at Plaksha University about his book which provides an overview of the neural and cognitive processes that support learning. “The human brain is trying to formulate a model of the world and this model requires taking chunks of information, digesting them, and then organizing them.”
In an October 2020 Interview on the Chris Voss Show podcast, Sarma said there are two phases in education. “ One is the delivery of new information that has to happen somehow, and the other part is the kind of the marination of that information where you learn how to apply it within your head and in the world.”
Learning Needs of Organ Donation and Transplantation Professionals
That real-world application is especially relevant to healthcare professionals who need to learn throughout their careers. “It’s not just because of new advancements but because as experienced professionals they are better learners when they’re immersed in work that applies to what they are learning,” says national online learning expert Roxanne Russell, Ph.D., director of Online Education at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and one of the founders of Full Tilt Ahead, a consulting firm that designs virtual curriculum for medical and nursing schools across the country.
“The design of The Alliance’s learning programs is tailored to our unique audience,” says Deanna Fenton, senior manager, Educational Program Development and Operations at The Alliance. “The model provides convenience and interactivity which is especially relevant to donation and transplantation professionals who frequently have demanding time constraints such as when an organ becomes available. We’ve optimized the model to meet them where they are and it’s been exciting to see the programs build community through interactivity, especially in the Conversation Series and the Mentorship program. There are so many conflicting priorities for our audience that it can be hard to prioritize self-guided learning. Our portfolio of offerings lends itself to learning at whatever pace works best for the individual.”
Highly Contextualized Learning Strategy
Online Learning Expert Russell emphasizes that it’s not the proliferation of knowledge that drives the need for adult learning programs to be highly contextualized. “It’s how our brains work, how we learn. Learning just sticks better in the context of doing what these concepts apply to. We’re basically digging deeper grooves into our album when we have to recall something and apply it. It’s like a double groove if you are asked to interact with it.”
“The idea of constant immersion and connection back to your work is where the greatest learning outcomes take place,” says Russell. “It’s how our brains work, how we learn.”
The Alliance’s Learning Programs Model
The Alliance’s programs range from high-convenience, online research resources to highly interactive classes and mentorship experiences. The multiple points of entry to the Alliance’s learning programs provide flexibility for the healthcare professional and build a professional community of practice.
“The Alliance’s learning programs model is at the forefront of where health care education should be right now. It shows a very clear understanding of the healthcare professional as someone who lives in a real space and time. They’re going to need interpersonal learning, and they’re also going to need the convenience of just grabbing a resource when they need it.”
ROXANNE RUSSELL, Ph.D.
Director of Online Education, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Co-Founder, Full Tilt Ahead
The Alliance’s learning programs are not clinical training programs but focus on the introduction of emerging knowledge and issues in organ donation and transplantation. “The Alliance builds communities of people who gather to discuss an emerging topic or issue,” says Russell. “When new approaches and perspectives are emerging, and people attend a webinar or conversation around that topic right off the bat, these are the folks that you’re going to want to pay attention to or follow in order to move the topic or issue along. If the pandemic has taught us anything at all, it’s that knowledge is indefinite and tuning into the voices that have gathered around a new topic is where the knowledge will be.”
Range of Learning Programs Span Convenience and Interactivity
- Active Research/Problem Solving Programs: Online Resource Library with the Community Resource Toolbox and Spotlight Series that provide easily-searched, curated resources for professionals looking for foundational knowledge or for information about a specific problem or issue.
- Receptive Conceptualization Programs: On-Demand Classroom/Webinar with the On-Demand Advancement Series and Learning Pathway programs that provide recorded videos and audio about dozens of topics for professionals to watch and learn on their own schedules.
- Reflective Observation Programs: Live Classroom/Webinar with the Live Virtual Advancement Series that occurs at a specific time and provides increasing interactivity with an expert presenting on a topic followed by a Q&A session to answer questions that have been submitted by participants.
- Active Exploration Programs: Live Discussion Webinar with the Live Virtual Conversation Series that provides an active/probing learning experience with a live presenter followed by extensive discussions in a virtual breakout room where participants can pose and discuss questions and issues.
- Concrete Experience and Community Building Programs: Paired Guide for Personal Growth with the Alliance’s Mentorship program that provides a highly-interactive 1:1 experience by matching experienced donation and transplantation professionals with staff across the country who are new to their transplant career or role.
Improving Learning Programs is an Alliance Strategic Goal
The Alliance’s learning model and portfolio of learning programs was informed by a situational analysis that was conducted as part of The Alliance’s 2021 Strategic Planning process. The analysis resulted in a strategic plan goal: “Improve access to current tools, resources and learning programs for broad consumption.”