empower learners My husband works in the emergency medical and public safety field and is required to complete X number of continuing education (CE) hours per year to keep his certifications. He can obtain his CEs by attending meetings, reading journals, and taking instructor-led or online classes. But like a lot of professionals whose job requires them to earn CEs, he often sees these activities as simply “checking the box.” Activities and classes are often selected based on ease and convenience to complete, not because they sound interesting or appeal to his learning style. Why is that and what can continuing education providers do to make their offerings more engaging and empower learners?

I believe the majority of CE providers are missing an opportunity to engage and empower learners. Just because a course or reading is required, doesn’t mean it needs to be generic or passive. Learners want to feel challenged, they like “disruption,” which requires them to apply their knowledge and skills to complete an activity.

Recently, my husband attended a specialized training course which was taught at a local university and facilitated by subject matter experts in his field. Each evening my husband came home from his class and he couldn’t stop talking about everything he had learned, the feedback he received, and what he hoped to do better next time. Hearing him go on about this particular class got me wondering, “What is it about this class that is getting him so excited? What are they doing right that so many other CE activities have failed to do?”

As it turned out, the class was structured to be a series of scenarios carried out through role play and the use of simulators. They were learning by doing. Rather than sitting back and watching videos or transcribing notes from an overhead projector, learners were encouraged to get up out of their seats and participate in the learning. With each activity the scenarios grew more unpredictable and challenging. Learners worked in teams and strategized the best course of action before acting out their parts in the scenario. Empowering learners to make decisions and put what they were learning into action completely changed the level of engagement for those in attendance.

What’s the lesson here? Don’t settle for just providing training that meets CE requirements, strive for engagement that empowers and motivates learners to test their skills and enables them to “fail forward” in a safe environment. In this example, scenarios and the use of simulations elevated what could have been boring “page turner” lessons into something these learners will likely never forget. When designing your continuing education activities, whether it be a journal reading, a facilitated meeting, or an in-person or online course, challenge yourself to think outside the box. Incorporate knowledge checks, learning activities, team challenges, scenarios, and other proven methods for increasing engagement and knowledge retention. Remember, your learners have choices when deciding where to obtain their CEs, give them a reason to choose you!

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