The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is an independent nonprofit, nongovernmental organization located in Washington, DC. It was authorized by Congress in 2010 with the mandate to improve the quality and relevance of evidence available to help patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, insurers, and policy makers make informed health decisions. Specifically, PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research, or CER, as well as supports work that will improve the methods used to conduct such studies.
PCORI’s mission is to help people make informed healthcare decisions, and improve healthcare delivery and outcomes, by producing and promoting high-integrity, evidence-based information that comes from research guided by patients, caregivers, and the broader healthcare community.
PCORI provides training for their internal staff, applicants for research funding as well as for those who are successful in obtaining funding for research projects. While PCORI typically provides the content for the training, it needed a custom eLearning solutions partner to take that content and transform it into an interactive, high- quality learning experience. TrainSmart became that partner after completing a task few firms relish: taking over a project that was started by another firm. Today, TrainSmart works with PCORI on a wide range of projects. Sometimes an existing training needs updating to reflect new information and processes. Other times, TrainSmart has the opportunity to design and develop an original training.
Taking Over a Project
In many ways, cleaning up an eLearning project that has gone off the rails is one of the most challenging assignments. Often the deadlines are tight because by the time the problem is discovered, it’s usually late in the process. In addition, the designers and developers must work with what has already been created–not necessarily the way they would want to approach the project.
Some of the typical problems that an eLearning cleanup crew must deal with:
- Content that is force-fitted into an existing template instead of having a treatment to fit the content.
- Inconsistent visuals that fail to conform to the style guidelines for eLearning visuals regarding font styles and sizes
- An excessive amount of content on one visual that ends up being squished and is almost non-readable.
- Lack of interaction to make the learning enjoyable and memorable.
The challenge for the training that needed to be cleaned up was to take the existing content and create a design that was both user-friendly and attractive. Where static content existed, click and reveals were added as well timeline and step treatments. These all provide an element of interactivity enabling the learner to engage with the material. When appropriate, visuals were added to provide some imagery to the course.
Updating an existing eLearning Course
While updating an existing training is usually one of the least complex assignments, that is not always the case. One of PCORI’s existing eLearning courses was targeted to the people who do Merit Reviews. Their job is to review applications for research projects and decide whether the project should be funded. The training is designed to take them through process they need to follow and each course contains key dates that they need to meet. When PCORI needed to update that training to share lessons learned, new processes and new dates, it turned to TrainSmart to implement those changes.
It was not as straightforward as it might seem because the merit reviews are divided into multiple categories and none of the categories follows the exact same process or has the same dates. The complicating factor is that they share some processes and dates with the other categories. Several categories might share the same dates but follow different processes while other categories might have the same new process as another category but have different dates.
For the instructional designer, it meant figuring out where information was duplicable and matching it with the correct module in the correct category. The one thing no one wanted was to recreate information that could have been shared from a different module.
It was like putting together a huge puzzle requiring masterful organization and project management skills to keep this massive amount of information straight and make sure the right processes, updates and dates were assigned to the correct categories without duplicating material that had previously been created.
To be approved for researching funding from PCORI, applicants need to follow a very strict procedure. The proposals are complex and time consuming. To make sure applicants fully understand the process they must follow to ensure their proposal can be submitted for review. PCORI wanted to create an eLearning that would provide basic information on the right way to submit an application for research.
TrainSmart teamed with PCORI to create an eLearning module that takes applicants step by step through the necessary process.