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The best approach to training


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in California has purchased talent and learning software from SumTotal Systems to help support its study on the best way to deliver learning to hundreds of substance abuse counselors.

The solution, ResultsOnDemand, will provide researchers with the framework and technology to control how counselors in the study learn about new treatment approaches, according to a recent press release from SumTotal Systems. Funded by The National Institute on Drug Abuse Abuse (NIDA), the study will evaluate how to use technology-based training to help substance abuse counselors learn about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based treatment approach.

Steven W. Villaranca, research health science specialist at the Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine, says, "We're not trying to prove--with our study--that online training has merits over classroom training. We already know that online training can be as effective as face-to-face workshops. Instead, we want to know what is the best possible way to deliver online training to counselors so that they achieve the most beneficial outcomes for their clients. For example: Do counselors learn and retain more when they have the ability to select the training content that they feel is most relevant to their clinical practice, or do they learn best by following a traditional, step-by-step process of instruction?"

The Palo Alto research team will use the SumTotal platform to launch two different versions of an online CBT course. One set of participants will have the freedom to choose the online instruction they want, in the order they want. The other group will follow a prescribed order of online learning. At the end of the study, the researchers will use the software to analyze not only what counselors learned but also how they learned.

Says Kenneth R. Weingardt, associate director of the Palo Alto Health Care System's Program Evaluation and Resource Center and the study's principal investigator, "This may be the first time a learning management system has been used to empirically compare different pedagogical approaches."


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