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Spotlight on the E-learning Institute: A CDC and PHF Collaboration

Strengthening public health through workforce development and training is a constant challenge for state and local health departments. In his presentation at the 2012 CDC Public Health Workforce Summit, Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., President of the Institute of Medicine remarked, “We must determine ways to amplify every dollar in public health.” One aspect of this is to ensure high return on every dollar invested in the design and delivery of training for the workforce.

image of E-learning signAs budgets shrink, organizations are relying more and more on a variety of technology-based learning platforms. Technology-based learning, also known as e-learning, affords cost savings for employers by reducing costs associated with travelling to attend training and allowing employers to provide training to staff regardless of geographic location. From the learners’ perspective, e-learning has many advantages over traditional classroom-based learning including increased flexibility, convenience, and consistency of information presented. While e-learning is increasing in popularity, designing effective e-learning can be challenging. To support state and local health departments with creating quality e-learning, CDC collaborated with the Public Health Foundation (PHF) to pilot the E-learning Institute (ELI), an 18-week virtual course designed to strengthen the e-learning design skills of participants.

Innovative Delivery of a Quality Curriculum

Image of E-learning EssentialsThe vision of the ELI Pilot was to empower a group of education and training professionals with the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources necessary to efficiently and effectively create quality e-learning. Eight educators from state or local health departments in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Delaware, and Vermont were selected from a pool of applicants. The participants followed an 18-week curriculum based on CDC’s E-learning Essentials suite of products. The curriculum included a number of learning opportunities which provided each participant with a solid foundation in e-learning design. In addition, each participant was paired with a mentor—an e-learning expert from within or outside CDC. The overall goal was for each participant to create their own e-learning products based on the knowledge and skills gained throughout the program.

The ELI Pilot curriculum was delivered through a variety of mechanisms, including:

  • CDC TRAIN –This learning management system listed all of the courses, the ELI training plan, and optional resources for participants.
  • phConnect—Participants and mentors posted content on this online collaboration tool and engaged in online discussions.
  • Audio and video conferencing—This mechanism was used to conduct webinars, through CDC TRAIN’s Health Educators and Learning Professionals (HELP) community of practice (CoP). These tools also were used for small group meetings during which participants shared progress on their e-learning products and received feedback from the mentors and peers.
Eli participants

Figure 1. Participants and mentors at the ELI Pilot Showcase, August 2013

The ELI Pilot culminated in an in-person, showcase on August 13, 2013. During the showcase, participants presented their e-learning products and received constructive feedback from their mentors and peers. This event was a great opportunity for everyone involved in ELI to finally meet their “virtual” colleagues. “It (the showcase) solidified the community we have been building in the past few months,” said participant Shih-Ting Lee, PhD, Training Specialist from Division for Regional and Local Health Services Texas Department of State Health Services. ELI participants acknowledged the hard work and commitment of the mentors, CDC instructional designers, and PHF staff with positive feedback including:

(CDC) recognized the learning gap and that public health people aren’t techies … it (ELI) was a crash course in E-learning. Very beneficial.

I Liked (that ELI) provided more resources and assistance to states in times of shrinking budgets. It strengthened state resources versus outsourcing development efforts.

One mentor acknowledged that she also benefited from ELI. “As a person interested in staying abreast of developments in the instructional design and e-learning arenas, I also feel that the rich variety of reading materials, courses, and professional advice gathered for this program was a bonanza,” said mentor Rozolyn Roscoe, Senior Instructional Technologist in CDC’s Laboratory Training Branch.

ELI 2014

Word has spread about the ELI Pilot’s success! CDC has received requests to repeat the program and is working diligently with PHF to do so. Be sure to check back with CDC Learning Connection in early 2014 for additional information.

Note: This is the second of a new Spotlight featuring people, tools, or systems that support and advance learning for state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) public health professionals. Periodically, the CDC Learning Connection will Spotlight an innovative public health training activity. To submit ideas on future topics contact

  • Page last reviewed: November 14, 2013
  • Page last updated: November 14, 2013
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