Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Musings on Continuing Education in Quality

A common theme that comes up in this blog is Adult Education.  As a central thought I have read and observed that adults are not sponges, open to learning about everything.  Adults will learn what they want to learn provided that it is packaged in a way that they perceive suits their purpose and self-image.  Adult learners, despite their motivation are   very selfish.

There are so many choices these days; you can read a book or journal or go through an instruction manual or watch a video or attend a course or conference.  And of course there is the hunt-and-peck or trial-and-error approach of trying to figure it out through the process of self-exploration.  

I used to think that there were some natural divides that influenced how we try to learn.  Stereotypically men would might think would tend more towards solitary learning and women would tend more towards group learning, but what study there is on the subject does not bear that out.   Men and women use both forms of study, each for their own purposes, and each with their own degree of success.   

There are many types of information that can be picked up by reading a manual or journals, but in my experience the opportunities for failure are much greater than success.  If the writing is ambiguous or tedious, or if the conditions for reading are not perfect, or if you are distracted by multi-tasking or time urgency, the greatest probability is that the learning will be a struggle.

That is why I spend so much time on developing group opportunities for Continuing Education in Quality.

At the moment we are coming to the end of the first week in our on-line virtual classroom certificate course in Laboratory Quality Management, and it looks like this will be a successful year.  There is a lot of dialogue and discussion going on. 
Not everything is perfect; we are really struggling with a new on-line education platform that is not particularly intuitive or helpful.  I understand the pressures on companies to demonstrate their commitment to innovation, but I am not impressed when “New and Improved” turns out to be “just New”. Grumble …grumble.

As I have mentioned before I am also working on a number of on-site Quality Education opportunities to supplement the course.    

In April we will be hosting our 20th annual half-day Quality Seminar with the Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (CACMID) and the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada (AMMI Canada) in Quebec City and in October we will host our POLQM Quality Conference in Vancouver (see below).   Both these programs are coming along very well with strong subject content and high quality speakers.  

There are some obvious differences between on-line and on-site learning for adults.  On-line education, even in a group situation like our course, provides certain luxuries.  You can enjoy the group discussion and group learning but at the same time you can participate when you want to; for me after midnight works well.  You can have music or not, or sit in your underwear (provided that you don’t use Skype or You Tube!).  You can get up and walk away and come back an hour later and nobody knows.   You can even smoke.

On the other hand on-site learning provides a level of access and intimacy and connection that can never be truly paralleled by computer learning.  You can ask questions directly and make new contacts and create new opportunities.  As they say the real value of meetings is that you actually meet.   

As a education developer, my personal experience is that putting on a course of a conference or a seminar by-and-large all consume the same amount of time and energy and effort and money.  It is all in the preparation and detail.  The process of lining up topics and speakers and developing content is always more than you expect.  Regardless of format, each hour of content transfer takes about 10-12 hours of preparation time. If you think that you can do a credible job on less, you are probably wrong.  And more importantly if you thing you can do it all by yourself, you are definitely wrong; Education is absolutely a team sport.

For the bottom line is that we get engaged in continuing education activities because we see it as interesting and worthwhile and a lot of work and a lot of fun.  Making it all about Quality delivery makes it better.  

It is a noble endeavor.

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