The Role of Mobile Learning in Supporting Community Health Workers’ Continuous Learning.

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ABSTRACT

Key Words: Mobile Learning, Inclusive learning, Innovation, Community of Practice

In the health service hierarchy, the VHT group is presumed to occupy the lower spot at the community level which status would not make it a priority for regular knowledge refreshment, a challenge that positions the group as excluded. Besides, VHTs are volunteer support workers with an expected high attrition rate versus replacement. Varying issues that contribute to the problem of exclusion originate from supposedly two fronts; the end-users and the service providers.

In the Ugandan health service hierarchy, the Village Health Teams (VHT) group is presumed to occupy the lower spot at the community level which status would not make it a priority for regular knowledge refreshment, a challenge that positions the group as excluded. Besides, VHTs are volunteer support workers with an expected high attrition rate versus replacement. Varying issues that contribute to the problem of exclusion originate from supposedly two fronts; the end-users and the service providers.

This problem drives a need to assess the role of mobile learning in supporting community health workers (referred to as VHTs in Uganda), continuous learning on the job using a smartphone application.

This study seeks to dissect the problem and identify what mobile learning innovation can address in the interest of both variables. The study pivots its findings on the fact that inclusive learning allows participation for all and mobile learning innovation is positioned as a suitable enabler.

A VHT training manual application is deployed on VHTs smartphones, used to access information, and evaluated by the user. The evaluation seeks to assess the viability of providing sustained training to health support workers utilizing the affordances of mobile learning. A hard copy evaluation form is supplemented to gather views from VHTs in a sample size without a mobile device.

Key information is analyzed from VHTs training providers to support the understanding of bottlenecks and the extent of mobile learning intervention can bridge the gaps. The study gathers information on whether respondents feel that mobile learning technology (mobile application) supports their education and training, what the learning and technology challenges are for educators are for VHTS in using such an application, and what the challenges are for educators of health workers in meeting the training needs of VHTs?

In presenting evidence-based discourse, the study points out that:

1. Mobile learning is not just an alternative to teaching and training of health support workers but central in keeping pace with the increasing training needs of health training in a steadily growing population.

2. To achieve the quality of services provided by community health support workers (VHTs), including training community members, regular training should be given priority and mobile learning innovation should provide boundless support.

3. In a bid to democratize learning, mobile learning plays a significant part in minimizing the degree of exclusion from learning.  

4. Learning does not have to be always structured, but rather continuous, simple, effective, and collaborated in a Community of Practice(CoP).

It is eminent that the surging population in Uganda requires extra human resource support in the health sector and effective education innovations hinged on accessibility, affordability and availability ought to evolve to meet the pressing education and training needs.


STUDY OBJECTIVE

1. Assess the impact of Mobile learning in fostering inclusive continuous learning

2. Identify VHT challenges associated with using mobile learning technologies

3. Identify critical challenges faced by educators in providing training services to Health Workers/VHTs

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Concept Framework CC-BY

A mobile application developed from the Village Health Team(VHTs) Training Manual.

Screens for VHT Guidelines Mobile Application

Study Scope

The study is carried out in Northern Uganda in the district of Agago.

It includes 20 VHTs, 5 educators and 2 Community Health Workers Focal Personnel.

Conference Presentation

Evaluation Form: Mobile learning to support training (Case Study)

METHOD

The study takes a form of a case Study experiment(Morgan, 2012) The study data was gathered from participants identified as Village Health Team(VHT) members majorly from the district of Agago. The participants were Identified by the Community Health Focal Personnel from two counties of Patongo and … The study involved evaluating a mobile application(App). The mobile App content was extracted from the Uganda Ministry of Health VHT guidelines manual.  The VHT guideline App was installed on VHT mobile phones and required the user to interact with the content for two (2) weeks. An evaluation of the App and the content through the App feedback form followed. In this case, the evaluation was done during a workshop training involving 20 VHTs. The App was circulated via Whatsapp and users were facilitated with the data to download, install and access App the App content.    

RESULTS

A summary of the VHT Guidelines Mobile Application Evaluation

REFERENCES

Morgan, M., S. (2012) ‘Case Studies: One Observation or Many? Justification or Discovery?’, Philosophy of science, vol. 79, no. 5, pp. 667–677. DOI: 10.1086/667848 (Accessed 28 December 2020).

2 comments

  1. Well done on your conference presentation Moses!

    These are the questions that you were asked on the day, for you to respond to however you choose:
    How do materials need to be prepared for mobile access? What did you have to do to make the malaria VHT materials mobile friendly?

    How do community workers use their mobile phones currently? What do they use them for and how big a jump is it to use them to access training?

    How could this project scale up? Who else would need to be involved?
    E.g. can phones for health support workers be pre-loaded with content?

    how would you ensure they all have mobile phone access. would they be provided or donated if not available?

    Mobile phones require electricity for charging, how is that worked in remote locations? or is there electricity in remote areas ?

    I imagine that transport links may be an issue in getting access to physical resources so access to downloadable resources help? I was fascinated by what you said about paper resources deteriorating fast in villages

  2. Thank you for bringing this to my attention Simon.
    1. How do materials need to be prepared for mobile access? What did you have to do to make the malaria VHT materials mobile-friendly?

    Response: The content I used is already available in the VHT guideline manual. My part was to transform into a digital object accessed via a mobile application. The content in the manual include content on reproductive health(family planning, adolescent, child health, immunization, GBV), mental health diseases(malaria, STDs, etc)
    In the evaluation, I asked how best should the content be presented and the requests were to include graphic illustrations. Videos were also mentioned to be ideal for mobile learning but with the challenges stated including poor internet service, I have not yet considered that option for now. Otherwise, I tried as much as possible to chunk the content into small readable bits.

    2. How could this project scale up? Who else would need to be involved? E.g. can phones for health support workers be pre-loaded with content?

    Response: Good question! I intend to scale up the project to cover the country and I have briefly discussed the idea of scaling up the project with some stakeholders. My next step is to write up a short paper indicating the outcomes of the mini evaluation and share it with the stakeholders. I am sure the question of funding will always arise and that why I would like to share with many stakeholders in health community service.
    It’s a good idea to have a preinstalled package and I did not think about this option but I think it is good for me to explore this option but also figure out how updates can be accessed.

    3. How would you ensure they all have mobile phone access. would they be provided or donated if not available?

    Response: Mobile phones are an issue, however, stakeholders in community service such as Marie Stopes give out phones to community workers to support their reporting. I think this partly mitigates the challenge but also we could look at lobbying the government to provide these devices to community health workers. It sounds far-fetched but I don’t see any other way out!

    4. Mobile phones require electricity for charging, how is that worked in remote locations? or is there electricity in remote areas?

    Response: This issue is among the top challenges raised in the evaluation and suggestions given by respondents include the provision of solar-powered mobile phones and some with fair electricity access opted for power bank devices.

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