COURSE DEVELOPMENT AT ContinuingEducation.com
For decades now, readers have grown accustomed to finding a new CE print module in the Nurse.com magazines or in the allied health magazines, Today in PT, Today in OT or Nutrition Dimension, as well as new live webinars during our initiatives at Nurse.com. You may think they are easily written and published, but nothing further is from the truth! Like a fine wine, the process is perfected and time intensive and demands the expertise of multiple professionals. It starts with a needs assessment and topic ideas and then methodically develops into a one contact hour CE module or webinar course. Writing CE modules and creating webinars can be a fun and interesting experience, but it takes commitment and requires patience and persistence to plan, write, and revise them before they are featured.
Ideas and Pitches
For the CE print modules, Nan Callender-Price, RN, MA, Executive Director, Continuing Nursing Education, and the allied health editors, along with Phyllis Class, RN, Executive Director, Allied Health CE, and a group of nurse planners conduct regular needs assessments to identify “hot” topics. (See “Is There an Audience?”) Once a topic is selected, Callender-Price or the allied health editors choose an author, matching the best author to the topic. If they don’t have an author with the appropriate expertise, they embark on a talent search, asking for recommendations from other CE nurse planners and experts in the field.
For the webinar courses, Jennifer Chaikin, RN-BC, MSN/MHA, CCRN, and the nurse planner group conduct regular needs assessments to identify trends in nursing. They transform these trends into webinars (four to eight per topic). Once the topic and the subject matter of each webinar is chosen, Chaikin, Executive Director, Educational Initiatives, then picks an expert speaker for each webinar.
Digging, Then Digging Some More
ContinuingEducation.com authors and speakers have to be meticulous in their research. After all, patient care may be on the line. The information must be accurate so nurses and allied healthcare practitioners can apply it in their practice.
Authors and speakers turn to the Internet for a thorough literature search and tap into university and medical center libraries nearby. The first step is to find out what’s out there, always a huge amount of information. After that, authors and speakers begin work on the objectives and an outline to focus the CE module or webinar.
To meet the demand for evidence-based information, authors/speakers tap into resources such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Cochrane Collection Collaboration. Depending on the topic, they may also check national organizations, such as the American Heart Association.
Some writers use EurekAlert as a source for the latest in medicine. Another good way to cultivate information is through subscriptions, through the table of contents of many medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine and Circulation, and through press releases from government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health. Listservs, such as ProMed-mail, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Disease, are another resource. Authors often take advantage of Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts), a free service that delivers links to news items about a topic daily or weekly via e-mail. In addition, writers can access Linkout (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/projects/ linkout), which contains resources such as links to full-text publications. Authors are often creative in finding sources.
Our speakers must not only be expert in their fields, but also have experience and success in public speaking. ContinuingEducation.com seeks out nationally and internationally recognized experts who are adept delivering quality education to healthcare professionals through innovative, highly interactive webinars.
Quality Is the Top Priority
Quality, in the form of accuracy and clinical applicability, is key for successful CE. Writers go through a few drafts of the module reorganizing a section here, tweaking a sentence there — all to improve the manuscript. The authors strive for a conversational style, while still delivering content supported by the nursing and medical literature.
Sometimes authors are paired with a other content experts. Experts may not have the time or interest to write the complete module, but have the expert knowledge. A hallmark of ContinuingEducation.com CE modules is the clinical vignette, a case study that is required for most clinical CE modules. “We decided we wanted a more interactive exercise geared to the Web,” said Callender-Price. “Readers take a test based on the vignette before they take the CE post-test to assess if they can apply what they’ve learned. Readers must answer all four vignette questions correctly before proceeding to the post-test.” Callender-Price says the vignettes have been a hit: “They help meet Magnet requirements, and teachers love it because it helps learners apply the knowledge.”
Authors draw from various sources to create vignettes. Authors use their experience in the healthcare settings where they work to make the vignette more effective and realistic. Patient privacy is protected, and composite patients sometimes are used for the vignette.
Nursing and allied health editors review each manuscript several times, checking the accuracy of drug information, adding hyperlinks for key websites and rewriting and reorganizing as necessary to make sure the material is clear.
Recently CE authors began identifying evidence-based practice information in the modules. The EBP information ranges from Level A (the strongest) to Level C (the weakest), based on ContinuingEducation.com’s taxonomy. The rating system was developed with the help of nurse experts and other industry resources. “EBP is essential for the best possible patient care and outcomes,” said Callender-Price, “and this exercise introduces authors and readers to the specific levels of evidence that direct and support their clinical practice.”
The same process occurs for the webinars, but in PowerPoint format. In addition to the accuracy of the content of the webinars, the delivery of the content is aligned with appropriate adult learning theories to facilitate learning. Chaikin’s team is responsible for molding the content of the webinar presentations so that all types of learners can benefit during the webinar broadcast in order to get the most out of the education being delivered.
All CE offerings undergo blind peer review, a process that can challenge even the best writers, particularly when reviewers give conflicting advice. Authors reconcile the conflicts, working with ContinuingEducation.com editors as necessary, and revise the manuscript. Authors may choose not to make changes suggested by the reviewers, provided they supply a rationale for not doing so. Reviewers frequently want to include additional worthwhile information; however, that’s not always an option. We have a limit on our word count.
Next, the module goes to the managing editors Anne Houghteling, Lisa Foulke and Wendy de Pinho, who edit line by line to be sure the text is in a conversational voice and is easy to read. The managing editors work with Callender-Price, Chaikin, and Class, and the authors and speakers on rephrasing sentences or phrases within the presentation that may be difficult to understand or not grammatically correct. The managing editors also often write subheads to break up long columns of type and create attention-getting headlines to draw the reader in.
Authors and speakers don’t just use words to communicate information; they also rely on images, such as photographs, illustrations, diagrams and flow charts. It’s a way to draw readers into the article, explain complex concepts and provide resources.
The ContinuingEducation.com graphic designer, Julie Juern, in collaboration with Callender-Price or Class and the managing editors, picks the main image for the CE modules. For the webinars, Chaikin and her team collaborate with the speakers to create images to place within the presentations. Chosen images range from the simple (a close-up of an older person’s feet to illustrate a module on how to help older patients care for their feet) to the historic (a photograph of a young child with polio for a module on post-polio syndrome) to the abstract or conceptual (such as an image of the heart with lightening rods in the background for a module on atrial fibrillation). Whatever the art, the goal is to make it complement the headline or the first sentence or paragraph of the module so that the elements grab readers’ attention and make them want to read more.
ContinuingEducation.com produces hundreds of CE modules and webinars each year and has won worldwide recognition, with some courses being translated for use in other countries, such as Greece and Spain. Modules now include several icons, such as one for APNs and another for Magnet-relevant material, so nurses can quickly find topics that fit their needs.
As with the authors, results drive Callender-Price, Class and the entire ContinuingEducation.com team. “It’s exciting to start something, see it develop it and then see it in print and online,” Class said. “The writers are great to work with, and a letter from a satisfied reader makes our day.”
Concerning webinars, Chaikin states, “Using the feedback from our audience, trends within nursing and healthcare and issues in the world community to create and design our webinars is satisfying to us as educators.” She believes that the interactivity of a live speaking engagement and the best experts in the world, combined with the ease of attending a webinar, is what makes this process so exciting.