Online education a plus for employers

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Gordon Stein was one of the first high-tech wizards to develop an online continuing education program for a business or professional organization. In 1998, he introduced Continuing Education Online Inc. (www.proceo.com), which began as an online infection-control education program targeted to health care professionals.

Stein lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and developed the infection-control program when New York state health officials mandated ongoing infection-control courses for all the state’s health care personnel. The course was designed by a registered nurse, who had written infection-control programs for hospitals and medical facilities. Stein formatted the program for the Internet.

As more health care professionals sought the online program for continuing education, health care managers asked Stein if he could use the same format for other programs.

In answer to the demand for online programming, Stein developed OSCAR – online secure course administration resource, which is a learning management system offered through a self-instructional Internet-based training system.

Because OSCAR is Web-based, employers do not have to purchase hardware or software programs, and users can access courses and administrative tools using any Web browser or computer.

The employers provide the course material and Stein’s programmers “crystallize” the information for the Internet. “It’s a back and forth process to create the final product for online user ability,” Stein said.

Today, programming and formatting corporate employee-education programs has become about 80 percent of Stein’s business, he said. The infection-control program comprises the other 20 percent of the online professional learning campus.

“Ongoing education, like courses on laser safety and moderate sedation for physicians and other practitioners, used to be done through printed materials or in lecture halls,” Stein said.

Internet-based learning management systems have given new meaning to the process of learning, he said.

Continuing Education Online Inc. focuses on the health care industry, but Stein said he is branching off into the insurance industry – risk management. “Our system, however, is applicable to any industry and any situation wherever there is a need for employee training,” he said.

Stein is researching the feasibility of taking the contents of a program that has been formatted for hospital training and marketing it to other hospitals. “There is great potential with this type of educational programming,” he said.

Betsy Lograno is the associate executive director at Coney Island Hospital, one of Stein’s client companies, in Brooklyn, N.Y. She said that the program is fabulous.

“We’ve developed a course for doctors who want privileges or need to be re-privileged,” and Continuing Education Online Inc. formats and administers the course,” she said. “We own it, and we can update it any time. The online course is convenient and makes the doctors accountable. They can’t leave the classroom early. The online course is also cheaper, and, after the doctors complete the course, the certificates are sent directly to our credentialing department.”

Lograno said the opportunities to expand to other hospital staff are endless. The doctors do not receive continuing education credit for the courses.

But, Lograno said the online education is in line with hospital and Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations education directives.

Another online program, targeted for the legal profession, does offer continuing education credit for lawyers. That program, DigiLearn (www.digilearnonline.com) is housed with the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator.

“What is unique about our market in terms of online education is what we do is required by law,” said Melissa Loucks, a lawyer and the founder and chief executive officer of the company.

When Loucks started the company in August 2001, she researched the “corporate e-learning space” and found many online education programs; however, “when the bubble burst, many of those programs went away,” she said.

DigiLearn is growing. Loucks launched the company with 16 online courses that she created based on her area of expertise – labor and employment litigation.

The company has 18 content providers and 130 courses. There are a variety of legal beagles and professionals designing courses for DigiLearn.

The courses are accredited in 40 states, and Loucks said there are 4,000 registered users. “We are continuing to grow,” Loucks said. “We are hiring new employees, signing up more users and bringing on more content from the providers.

“Online education is never going to replace live education. There is a benefit to going to conferences, etc., but I think online education is more convenient. When I was practicing in an office, two-thirds of our costs were associated with seminars because of travel time and time away from the office.

“And since our courses are required, we offer an attractive choice to the professional.”

- Marylou.Doehrman@csbj.com