Accra, Ghana — When Martha Serwah Appiagyei and her instructional team began preparing nursing, midwifery and public health tutors in Ghana to be more effective teachers, they had some reservations about how participants would receive a computer-based component of the course.
As expected, after the first participant received her learning module package, she immediately called the team at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) to ask: “How do I use this computer program? Can you talk me through it on the phone?”
After a lengthy phone conversation, the participant was able to successfully complete the Jhpiego-developed ModCAL® (Modified Computer-Assisted Learning) for Training Skills—and Appiagyei and her MCHIP/Ghana colleagues, Susuana Van Brocke and Dorothy Akua Aikins, quickly developed an innovative strategy to deal with any additional requests that could delay their educational goals. Their response to this challenge had the additional benefit of saving time and money in conducting this training that would help build the capacity of the next generation of health care providers in Ghana.
MCHIP, which is led by Jhpiego, is working to strengthen Ghana’s pre-service education in midwifery, public health and community health nursing by helping tutors—who are responsible for thousands of students—become better teachers through training in effective teaching skills. This specialized training involves technical updates, demonstration and feedback sessions, teaching materials and follow-up mentoring, all led by a small team of technical advisors.
ModCAL for Training Skillsis part of Jhpiego’s 21st century toolkit for global learning. This computer-based learning module on principles of teaching provides practical examples, video clips and case studies. Participants work through these independently and complete a short test after each one. This computer-based preparation process has shortened classroom training from two weeks to five days. In a resource-poor environment with a shortage of tutors, time-saving and cost-effective approaches such as these are vital.
The experience in Ghana highlights the ingenuity and flexibility of the Ghana/MCHIP instructional team in today’s global learning environment.
Six weeks before the classroom training, the MCHIP teamin Ghana loaded ModCAL onto portable computer drives and sent one to each of the 62 participants who had to complete the modules and print out a certificate attesting they had gone through this preparatory phase of the training. Knowing many of the tutors don’t have easy access to a computer and might find the program a challenge, the team needed a way to support the tutors quickly and effectively. But traditional on-site visits would have been too expensive and time-consuming; it would have cost over $25,000 for team members to visit each participant.
To address this challenge, the MCHIP instructors telephoned all of the tutors and discussed how the computer program worked and how to complete the modules and print the certificate of completion. “Though we sometimes talked for long periods, it was very beneficial because each member was able to complete ModCAL before attending the training and also participated actively during the training,” says Appiagyei, head of the MCHIP team.
Through this approach, the cost of the essential preparatory training totaled $75.
After reflecting on their experience, the MCHIP team is implementing and evaluating a larger intervention to deliver more comprehensive mentoring to tutors via mobile phone.