Monday, 27 April 2009

Online CEU Credits

It's very common for organizations to require completion of some number of hours of learning as part of a certification, continuing education or compliance.  There are many, many examples out there. 

The International Association for Continuing Education and Training defines CEUs purely in terms of "contact hours"

Continuing Education Units

One Continuing Education Unit (CEU) is defined as ten contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.

The recent California AB 1825 requires two hours of "effective interactive training" on sexual harassment for all supervisors.  They include the following definition (which is at least a bit better than most CEU definitions):

“Effective interactive training” includes any of the following:

(A) “Classroom” training is in-person, trainer-instruction, whose content is created by a trainer and provided to a supervisor by a trainer, in a setting removed from the supervisor’s daily duties.

(B) “E-learning” training is individualized, interactive, computer-based training created by a trainer and an instructional designer. An e-learning training shall provide a link or directions on how to contact a trainer who shall be available to answer questions and to provide guidance and assistance about the training within a reasonable period of time after the supervisor asks the question, but no more than two business days after the question is asked.

(C) “Webinar” training is an internet-based seminar whose content is created and taught by a trainer and transmitted over the internet or intranet in real time. An employer utilizing a webinar for its supervisors must document and demonstrate that each supervisor who was not physically present in the same room as the trainer nonetheless attended the entire training and actively participated with the training’s interactive content, discussion questions, hypothetical scenarios, quizzes or tests, and activities. The webinar must provide the supervisors an opportunity to ask questions, to have them answered and otherwise to seek guidance and assistance.

(D) Other “effective interactive training” and education includes the use of audio, video or computer technology in conjunction with classroom, webinar and/or e-learning training.

(E) For any of the above training methods, the instruction shall include questions that assess learning, skill-building activities that assess the supervisor’s application and understanding of content learned, and numerous hypothetical scenarios about harassment, each with one or more discussion questions so that supervisors remain engaged in the training.

They also include:

“Two hours” of training is two hours of classroom training or two hours of webinar training or, in the case of an e-learning training, a program that takes the supervisor no less than two hours to complete.

When it comes to online learning / eLearning, commonly this requirement for some number of hours translates to some amount of time spent in the online course. 

Someone just asked me questions about this and it's a problem that I've faced many times myself.  I'm hoping that you will chime in with your thoughts.  And I think we would all love to see pointers to influential resources that we could use in the future to help argue our case.

Problem 1 – Measure time equivalence?

I'm sure you've been through the design discussion where you figure out how you will show that people spent at least ten hours in the online course so they get their online CEU credits.  You've probably also sat through discussions about what to do if someone manages to finish in less than ten hours.  And you may have experienced this effect when you went through online traffic school.  Many of them force you to be online for some amount of time.

Most often the simple answer is to make sure that you have enough audio or video to ensure seat time is met.  Oh, and you disable the next button.  In other words, you ensure that the design of online learning enforces CEU credits based on seat time.  But what if you don't want to do that?  What if you have something that is text-based?  Or exploratory?

Are there common measures for time equivalence not based on time online or seat time?

Problem 2 – Reduced Time for Online?

I know that many of you reading this want to jump to the part where we convince the organization that they are wrong to base their standards on number of hours.  However, most of us are well aware that in most cases it will not be possible to get a large complex organization to change it's standards, so we have to work within the standards. 

At the same time, we know that:

  • We can do things like speeding up the audio without loss of comprehension.
  • Variability of learner pace means that many learners can learn the same amount in less time.
  • We can often teach the same concepts faster in online Learning / eLearning.

So …

How can we convince the organization that our variable length eLearning is worth X CEU Credits even when seat time may not come out to the set amount of time?

Problem 3 – Collaborative, Informal, Social Learning?

Now the hard part.  We know that forcing someone through 10 hours of courseware is probably not the best idea, especially if we want them to learn a lot and have a good experience.  We can certainly bring in a social element through a webinar (and these have the nice property that there are time lengths).  But what about using other kinds of social learning.

Can we effectively measure the time equivalence of collaborative, informal, social learning?

How can we convince an organization that participation in collaborative, informal, social learning experiences equates to some amount of time equivalence?

Problem 4 – Influencing the Organization?

Again, in most cases, we won't be able to actually change how the organization measures these things.  And when you look at from their perspective, they don't want to write up the specific content that must be covered, because it's too broad and will change.  Thus, they are really just saying – you need to go through X amount of learning.

Are there other good ways to define X amount of learning?

What have you seen that are good ways to handle online CEU credits?

What influential examples exist that might help us influence the organization?

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