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‘Right-Sized Learning’ for Healthcare Blends Multiple Techniques for Maximum Benefit

The best and most innovative learning platforms can fall short of their goal if students don’t retain what’s being taught. How to combat that? It’s a matter of “right-sized learning,” says Dr. John Yosaitis, Medical Director of the MedStar Simulation Training & Education Lab (SiTEL), the education and technology group developing learning solutions for associates at MedStar Health.

“How much can you hold in your head, and how does your brain process all of it? ‘Right sized learning’ gets back to what are we going to give the learner for the most impact,” Dr. Yosaitis says. “It’s not just shorter is better, and it’s not more complete is better. There has to be a size, which can be hard to figure out, because that differs for different learners. But the right size will maximize the impact that the education’s going to give the learner.”

Seeing Ongoing Education as a Journey

To that end, he says attention must be paid not only to complexity but also amount of data, because finding the right amount will keep adult learners engaged.

“We have to keep the educational environment friendly for every adult learner or they won’t come back for more,” he explains. “They can burn out, especially with online learning. If you’re not doing it right people will just dread the next experience they have. But if you give it to them in the right size, if you give them something that they feel is pertinent to what they’re doing, then they’ll come back for more. We need them to be able to learn something the next year or the year after, because lot of people at healthcare systems stay there for 25 or 30 years.”

The growth of online learning is one example he points to that highlights the pressing need around right-sized learning. How can remote education be tailored to meet the differing needs of students? How can that experience be customized and improved? First, he says, it’s important to get a handle of what a good learning experience is.

“To a certain extent, it depends on how you define experience,” he says. “Experience doesn’t always have to be a simulation. Most of us have learned through lectures, even though often lecturers just end up being somebody in the front of the room basically reading from a book. Giving lists of things to do to the learners in the classroom is definitely not an experience.”

A live or online lecture can be two things:

  • a story
  • an argument

Those are something the learner experiences, and that will drive success in e-learning, Dr. Yosaitis says.

“It can’t be just lists. Nobody is going remember a list from watching a video or doing an interactive module,” he says. “No matter how good it is, they are going to come away with just a few things. The way they’re going to learn it is the way humans have been programmed through millennia: by listening to stories or listening to an argument and, and that’s the experience you can have through e-learning.”

Creating that experience, he adds, will lead to excitement and engagement, which only boosts learning and retention.

“If you take the adult learner and you give them a solution to something that they perceive is a problem, they’ll be excited about it,” he says. “If they feel like you’re just giving them some information, particularly lists, and it’s not helping them there’s not going to be any excitement there. A lot of it gets back to what in medicine we call ‘parallels.’ There needs to be parallels there. If you show a list there needs to be some practitioner, maybe a nurse, who has years of experience saying, ‘So, these are the 17 different things it could be but in my experience what I really see is this.’ And, ‘This is how I deal with that problem.’ That right there is a story. It’s a short story, but that’s what people are looking for and that’s what gets them excited. It’s not easy to do, but that’s what we try to shoot for.”

About Dr. John Yosaitis:

Dr. John Yosaitis is Medical Director of the MedStar Simulation Training & Education Lab (SiTEL), the education and technology group developing learning solutions for associates at MedStar Health, as well as the Integrated Learning Center at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, where he also is an Associate Professor. A former biomedical engineer, Dr. Yosaitis began his medical career at the National Institutes of Health as a clinical anesthesiologist and researcher. Since 2000, Dr. Yosaitis has served MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Georgetown School of Medicine as both a pediatric and adult transplant anesthesiologist and an educator.  Dr. Yosaitis received his medical degree from Rutgers University. He completed his residency in anesthesiology at George Washington University and his fellowship in transplant anesthesia at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. He is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and is a member of several distinguished professional associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

This blog post is taken from a HealthStream Second Opinions Podcast that was recorded recently. To hear Dr. Yosaitis’ full discussion, click here.

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