Shih-Ting Lee, Former Trainer, Texas Department of State Health Services
Public Health Foundation (PHF) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the first E-Learning Institute (ELI) in 2013. The goal of ELI is to equip distance learning professionals from state, tribal, local, territorial, and international health departments, as well as university and hospital learning professionals with practical skills and promising practices focused on creating quality online training products.
Even with a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction (Instructional Technology), I was fairly new to the public health industry when applying to ELI. However, due to the reputation of CDC and PHF, I decided to apply for this program. Nine participants were selected for the 2013 cohort and I was one of the lucky few chosen to participate in the inaugural program.
During the 18 week program, ELI participants worked closely with mentors from CDC and other public health agencies to design an e-learning product. Participants and mentors formed online learning communities through webinars, email and phone exchanges, and SharePoint — a platform to discuss ideas and share questions regarding our products. Our mentors regularly monitored our discussion forums on SharePoint and shared their insights regarding e-learning. Mentors shared new ideas through webinar presentations in e-learning design and development such as the instructional design process, development tools, and 508 compliance. Phone and email exchanges allowed for easy access to our peers and for mentors to answer emergent questions. Through the various channels of communication, my e-learning knowledge and skills grew week by week!
My takeaways as a participant of ELI include:
- Professional development: The experience at ELI expanded my existing knowledge, skills, and attitude towards e-learning as my previous professional experience was primarily in higher education. Having the opportunity to see exemplary projects from CDC and other public health departments gave me an overview of best practices in the public health industry. Our mentors were supportive and generous in sharing their experience and resources. Other participants contributed new perspectives and ideas to e-learning. I always learned new ideas through the regular online discussions or through questions other participants raised.
- Self-reflection and benchmarking: The opportunity to share my finalized product and review other ELI participant’s projects promoted self-reflection and benchmarking. This process gave each ELI participant the opportunity to refine our projects by observing best practices from peers.
- Professional Networking: The friendship between participants and mentors developed through ELI is priceless. Because of the positive experience, many of us have kept in touch after the program’s conclusion. The support system developed through ELI has turned out to be helpful resources for my future projects.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in ELI and feel privileged to serve as a mentor for the 2014 program! If your job functions involve designing or developing online trainings and are interested in enhancing your skills, I encourage you to:
* This PHF Pulse submission is a perspective on the 2013 E-Learning Institute, which was an 18 week program. The 2014 E-Learning Institute was modified to a 15 week program.