The Best Way to Start Offering CME Online
If you’re set on offering CME online, you’ve made a good decision. With live meeting attendance on the decline and online education becoming ever more prevalent, there are more reasons than ever to deliver CME activities via the web.
Getting started can be tricky, though. For starters, you’ve got to figure out the “how.”
- How will learners access my activities online?
- How will we make the process simple for our learners?
- How will we collect data for PARS reporting?
- How will we assess learning, performance change, and outcomes?
And so on. Then there’s the “what.”
- What kind of technology will help me deliver CME content?
- What kinds of tasks should learners be able to complete online? Access certificates? View test scores? Start and stop activities at will?
- What will we do about webinars? Will our CME software accommodate them?
These are important questions. The answers are partly a matter of philosophy. That is, you need to determine the type of online experience you think is ideal for learners and figure out how that experience ties into your larger CME operation.
Another part has to do with technology. For instance, you have to identify software that provides the flexibility you require. You also need to determine which tools enable the CME experience your learners are asking for.
What do CME learners want from an online experience?
Research suggests that most professionals prefer an online experience for continuing education. The primary reason they prefer it? They’re busy. Receiving and/or managing CME online is less time consuming than attending, say… live grand rounds.
Basically, learners like learning online because it’s relatively hassle-free. So, what are some hassles we can eliminate from the typical CME process?
For starters, there’s CME registration. Learners want the ability to view upcoming events, read a short synopsis, and then register. They want the ability to do these things quickly.
The same goes for post-activity completion actions, like viewing test scores and requesting certificates. The more of these you can incorporate within your online CME experience, the fewer the hassles for learners.
In other words, the whole process should occur within a single application. That way, learners can get in, do everything they need to do, and log out. No navigating between apps. No checking your website to retrieve information not available through your CME software.
With these ideas in mind, be sure to pursue an online CME approach that:
- Integrates all learner actions within a single software platform
- Includes post-activity actions that providers typically handle manually, like transcript and certificate generation
- Minimizes questions from learners – if it’s easy for them to do what they’re trying to do, they won’t have to ask for assistance.
- Lets learners begin an activity, complete some of it, and resume it later.
- Automates the entire request for credit process
- Supports other types of CME that you offer, like live meetings and webinars.
That last point is key. Ideally, you’ll be able to bring as much of the CME experience online as possible. From registering for live events to claiming credit for webinars, everything CME-related should be available to learners via a single platform.
After all, ease of use is what your learners want.
What are the non-negotiables for your CME technology?
So you’re determined to deliver the best online CME experience to learners. Fantastic. Now you need the tools to make it happen.
Technology doesn’t just need to serve your learners, though. It also needs to serve you, the CME provider! You’re the one who has to design the activities, publish them online, create and administer the assessments, and process the data. Online CME technology should meet your needs for speed and convenience, too.
Here’s a list of non-negotiables when it comes to CME software features. The technology you select must, at a minimum:
- Support the entire CME activity lifecycle, from adding content in common formats to administering assessments to awarding credit and accessing participation data.
- Enable creation of pre-tests, post-tests, and surveys, all of which are integrated into individual CME activities.
- List online activities in an easy-to-use catalog or, for live events, an online calendar. That way, it’s easy for learners to register for or begin an activity.
- Offer e-commerce tools for any activities that require payment.
- Collect a wealth of participation data, including all data needed for ACCME PARS.
- Shift as many “service” tasks as possible from the CME provider to the CME learner. The overall experience should simplify CME for providers as well!
So, what’s the best way to start offering CME online?
First, prioritize the learner experience. Then insist on using tools that simplify all aspects of administration. That’s the best way to get started with online CME.
After that, you just have to keep developing valuable CME activities and keep analyzing data to continuously improve them! The tedium of manual administration will largely be a thing of the past. One of the best things about offering CME online – besides reaching more learners – is that the right technologies can make it easier to manage and maintain your activities than in years past.
Learners benefit. You benefit. Simple as that.