Is eLearning the poor relation or the clever solution?

Clare GallagherClare Gallagher is the Learning Hub Lead at the North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups. Sick of school but keen to learn, she spent her young adult years enrolling in various online courses matching her personal interests – something she continues today. Here, Clare reflects on whether there is value in eLearning for people working in clinical settings, and if so, how it can be supported.

I grew up in Ireland in a time when approximately 17% of the population attended university – far less that the dizzying heights of today.  Those who went on to higher education were a breed apart; they spent all their time studying, and usually went on to become doctors and lawyers.  I wished them luck, but was thoroughly sick of school and wanted to venture into the world of gainful employment.

Since then, I haven’t stopped learning about a whole range of subjects and skills. I trained in IT to have a better chance of getting back into the work place after 11 years of rearing children. I achieved a marketing diploma, learned how to cook, and became a Sex Education Teacher. All with the help of classroom training and eLearning.  

When I got a chance to lead on the North West London Learning Platform for General Practice, I jumped at it. I had worked in Primary Care for over five years and seen a disparity in skills, restrictions on the learning tools staff could access, and a lack of quality training materials. The platform aspires to help anyone who wants to access learning opportunities for personal and career development do so, in line with their own ambitions. 

Feeling lucky, and having just been appointed as the lead, I decided to apply for the DigitalHealth.London Digital Pioneer Fellowship.  With the help of the programme, I’ve been able to bring the Learning Hub out of the cupboard and into the sunshine. 

With each learning day, I have gained invaluable knowledge and with the advice I received I feel more confident in making my elevator pitch, marketing, qualifying the impact and benefits, involving and convincing senior leaders to invest time and resources in the platform, and project management. And the best is yet to come: more learning days, mentors, and above all learning about other great digital projects that inspire my confidence in the future sustainability of the NHS.

Whilst there are times I don’t want to discuss challenges with other Fellows, their input has helped me to face my battles head on. It has given me the confidence to know I am headed in the right direction.  I am no longer daunted by lack of enthusiasm from stakeholders or budget restraints and can see light at the end of this journey. The platform has gone from 400 users to just under 1,000 in a year, which has been a great confidence booster.  We are still in our infancy – a Mini Cooper if you will, but with the aspiration to become a Tesla.  

Learning is one of life greatest gifts. It can leapfrog class, change lives, and create new ideas to help challenge the old. Digital technologies have opened up learning choices to everyone – why listen to an inadequate teacher in school when you can connect with an inspiring one online? The future is eLearning.

Now, I must be off to learn how to cook Lebanese frogs’ toes.