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5 Reasons to Use Mobile-Social Learning with Healthcare Workers

By Guest Writer on December 1, 2022

mobile-social learning health workers

Digital technology can increase access to continuing professional development (CPD) for health care workers by providing educational content virtually, while enabling virtual peer-to-peer and mentor interaction for enhanced learning. We call this intersection of virtual learning and virtual interaction “mobile-social learning” – a new methodology that is powerful for supporting health care providers to improve their clinical capacity, learning, and performance.

A mobile-social learning approach incorporates the following two aspects:

  • The use of mobile technology to increase access to digital learning opportunities;
  • Social platforms that encourage the social aspect of learning by facilitating professional networks for the sharing of experiences and exchange of knowledge through virtual communication.

The literature suggests that taking a mobile and social learning approach for health worker CPD serves as a catalyst for improved learning outcomes coupled with increased social capital. As more countries turn to digital modalities of learning for CPD, ensuring a mobile-social approach will be imperative in maximizing the outcomes for learning within the health workforce.

Jhpiego recently completed an integrated review to evaluate evidence to support the use of mobile-social learning in LMICs. A comprehensive search was conducted to identify both peer-reviewed and empirical evidence to support mobile-social learning. We found 31 eligible articles spanning sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South America and describing studies with physicians, nurses, midwives, community health workers and other health professionals, including trainees.

Here are five key take aways from the review:

1. Mobile-Social Learning can happen anytime

To make learning available and convenient to health workers anytime, anywhere, the content on mobile platforms must be essential and targeted, easy to access and quick to reference. The mobile content should be easy to review in short amounts of time, practical, and able to facilitate learning whether in the workplace, on the road, or at home.

Additionally, virtual CPD that is provided through mobile technology has demonstrated high feasibility and acceptability among health care providers in LMIC settings, who value the ability to complete the learning on their own time when it’s convenient. 

2. Mobile-Social Learning can happen anywhere

More than 80% of the studies used SMS or instant messaging (most frequently WhatsApp) to provide educational content, either alone or alongside other digital or in-person training. This lean, just-in-time learning via mobile devices can support workplace-based practical training, reduce in-person instruction time, and allow programs to reach greater numbers of providers, especially those practicing in remote locations or low-resourced settings where trainings are far and few between. Virtual training is affordable and can be easily adapted as new information is discovered to update providers across geographies with the latest information and clinical developments. 

3. It’s better to learn together

Mobile platforms can be used to not only provide CPD education, but also to augment CPD through peer-to-peer and mentorship engagement and interaction. Improved social support and reduced feelings of isolation were described in almost 30% of the studies we reviewed. Social networks serve as the interface between teachers, mentors, and independent learners engaged in the exploration of any single topic. We believe that health workers should receive greater social support while learning to improve retention rates and morale.

Increased social connectedness and social presence can play a key role in team building, increasing health care worker motivation and confidence. Learners recognize and value the addition of social interaction strategies via these mobile platforms as a way to receive affirmation of learning. This reinforcement offered by peers and mentors affected the confidence of students when translating learning into clinical practice.

4. Mobile-Social Learning drives better learning outcomes

Mobile-based social networks can facilitate learning by encouraging deeper exploration of the content through peer engagement, interactive discussion, and the giving and receiving of feedback. Virtual peer interaction and mentorship contributed to positive learning outcomes in 87% of the studies we reviewed, measured by increased knowledge sharing, knowledge gains, improved clinical skills, and improved service delivery.

In one study, it was found that the use of mobile-social learning led to better skill performance, demonstrating the improved learning outcomes overall for health care providers using this approach (as compared to traditional face-to-face trainings).

5. Mobile-social Learning makes learning meaningful  

The interface of mobile learning with social engagement during the learning process offers the opportunity for meaningful interaction with a wider network of learners and health workers via web-based real-time discussions and a collaborative learning approach. This allows for opportunities for students to collaborate to construct knowledge while promoting the development of learning communities and supporting the learning process.

In addition to supporting active and experiential learning, peer and mentor interactions allowed for direct personalized feedback, smoother transitions from theory into practice, and self-directed learning. Student satisfaction with mobile learning was assessed in 52% of the studies, with most strongly endorsing and approach and deeming it highly satisfactory. In particular, students cited the ability to receive real-time feedback as a key benefit for clinical practice and team building.

By Dominique Guillaume, Joanne Peter, and Erica Troncoso of Jhpiego.

Filed Under: Healthcare
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