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Nursing Informatics & Technology: A Blog for All Levels of Users

Learning Management Systems Support RNs in Mastering Informatics

Published November 17, 2014 12:25 PM by Susan Sportsman

Choosing a learning management system (LMS) to monitor, measure and evaluate RNs' health IT knowledge, skill and competence calls for an evaluation of available LMS systems and identification of selection criteria. It also requires implementation of an LMS that fits the needs of the healthcare organization (HCO), nurse learners, trainers, instructors and coaches.

Growing numbers of HCOs, including colleges, universities, hospitals, health systems and providers across the care continuum, rely on an LMS to plan, implement, facilitate, assess and monitor health IT and nurse informatics education and learning. The reasons are understandable. An LMS performs these vital functions:  

  • centralizes health IT and nurse informatics educational content and resources;
  • tracks nurse learner activities like discussion and collaboration;
  • orchestrates the delivery of health IT and nurse informatics content;
  • collects, aggregates and stores data on nurse learners; and 
  • delivers performance feedback and scores to learners and instructors.

In short, an LMS allows nurse trainers, instructors and coaches to develop courses, deliver instruction, facilitate communication, foster collaboration and assess learners. It also supports traditional face-to-face instruction and blended and online education.

Because learners value the use of an LMS, HCOs should take time to select an LMS that aligns with educational plans and strategies and integrates the perspectives of multiple stakeholders, including:

  • RN learners;
  • nurse instructors, trainers and coaches;
  • chief nursing officers (CNOs);
  • chief nursing informatics officers (CNIOs);
  • chief information officers (CIOs);
  • healthcare human resources executives; and
  • external experts in online education and learning systems.

Involving these parties in LMS system evaluation and selection will ensure buy-in on the LMS purchase or leasing decision and prevent or minimize resistance to LMS implementation. Just as important, many of these stakeholders will emerge as champions and advocates of the LMS and the concept of a lifelong learning HCO. 

Asking the Right Questions

The process of LMS evaluation and selection is far from easy. An LMS comes with many features. The central question to ask is this: Which features are most important to the HCO and its nurse learners, instructors, trainers, coaches and other stakeholders? The answer to this question will be unique to the HCO and its learning and nurse informatics priorities. Among the questions to consider in LMS selection:

  • Organizational Assessment: What's the HCO's strategic direction, including s the emerging role and function of nursing within the HCO? What are the top needs and priorities of LMS stakeholders?
  • LMS Features: How does the LMS compare and compete with other available systems in terms of reliability, reputation and other factors?
  • Design: How well does the LMS support nurse instructors and trainers in the transfer and adaption of educational content or the development of content from scratch?
  • Tools: To what extent does the LMS facilitate instruction and learning activities, including communication and collaboration?
  • Assessment: How well does the LMS support the design and management of assignments and tests? Does it assess and track nurse learner activities and performance?
  • Management: Is the LMS able to address security, data management and reporting? Does it support nurse instructors and trainers in administration and management of educational content?
  • Technology: How well does the LMS address software, hardware and network requirements?
  • Cost: What's the likely cost to acquire or lease and maintain the LMS fora specific numbers of nurse learners for each year of a multi-year contract?
  • Support: Is there constant IT support (from the LMS or the HCO). Some of the users in healthcare organizations and educational institutions use systems around the clock and may require assistance with tests or other functions at times beyond the traditional workday hours.

An LMS could possess every desired feature but still be difficult to use. That's why it's vital to test the LMS in an instructional/learning environment, making sure it meets the HCO's technical requirements and needs for functionality. Think about using new and veteran trainers, instructors and learners to test the LMS against the criteria of flexibility, efficiency and user-friendliness. Rely on nurse informatics and HIT professionals to test LMS reliability, stability, scalability and security.

If the HCO already has an LMS, check to see that the HCO can transfer educational content to the new LMS. The best approach is to make every LMS user-trainers, instructors and learners-participants in each phase of LMS evaluation, selection and implementation and promotion.

Nurse learners are eager to use an LMS. Sadly, instructors tend to use just half of LMS features, according to a survey conducted by the Educause Center for Learning and Analysis. Nurse trainers, instructors and coaches need to understand LMS features and functions and how to use them to achieve learning objectives. 

HCOs can take the lead by inviting nurse instructors and trainers from other organizations to share how they maximize the potential of LMS features. At the same time, HCOs and nurse associations can offer nurse instructors and trainers guidelines on how to develop content to engage nurse learners.

Looking Forward 

Who are today's nurse learners? They look forward to a future dominated by "healthcare anywhere" facilitated by anywhere, anytime access to educational content and information. They're eager to engage instructors, trainers and peers through face-to-face interactions and e-mail. And they seek classroom, online and blended learning environments made possible through an LMS that fit meets these criteria:

  • accessible
  • flexible
  • scalable
  • reliable/stable
  • robust
  • efficient
  • secure
  • cost-effective

The LMS will achieve its potential only if nurse instructors and learners can use the LMS to engage and communicate with nurse learners and receive the guidance and support needed to develop and deliver content.  In the end, an LMS must fulfill every stakeholder's needs and complement the learning and teaching priorities of the HCO and the nurses who work within it.   

Resources

"The Post- LMS LMS"

 "Life as a Healthcare CIO:  Learning Management Systems"

"Use of an Automated Learning Management System to Validate Nursing Competencies"

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology

"Developing and Reviewing Online Courses: Items for Consideration"

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    Occupation: Nursing informatics experts and enthusiasts
    Setting: Various settings in healthcare and academia
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