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myLearning - Faculty Research Compliance

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine oversees the conduct of research. One of their many responsibilities is to make sure that everybody who participates in research is properly trained in research ethics and practice. This protects the rights and welfare of the individuals participating in research studies and ensures that research is conducted in a way that complies with government regulations.

The Learning Solutions team, part of Talent Management and Organization Development, worked with the IRB to develop an innovative solution that makes life easier for the faculty who conduct research and takes advantage of the software. "We had already worked with the IRB team before," said Tina Cole, senior learning manager at Learning Solutions. "In 2010, they asked us to create a software system that would document who had become certified as a researcher by taking the required training." This new project involved recertification of faculty. The Vice Dean for Clinical Investigation, Dr. Daniel E. Ford, wanted the recertification program to be viewed as something more valuable than simply a chore that has to be accomplished for the sake of compliance. "I believe that it is important for faculty to view recertification as an interesting and rewarding educational experience," he explained. "Just as physicians view their continuing education as an important way of keeping up to date, faculty involved in research should have a range of options that are engaging and up to date."

The Learning Solutions teams and the IRB team collaborated over several months to develop a software-based system accessible from the myLearning website that administers most training at Hopkins.

"The most important thing was to give faculty a choice," said Tina Cole. She explained how the team developed a point based system. Each educational activity has points associated with it. This allows the faculty member to pick and choose the educational opportunities as long as they earn the right number of points to meet the recertification requirements.

Joe Shipe, an instructional programmer who holds an MS degree in instructional technology from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, was the principal architect of the software. "Developing the software that assigned point values to each of the options involved some fairly intricate software design. Research has demonstrated that if you give adults choices in their learning, they gain a sense of being in control of the learning process, resulting in better retention as well as improved attitudes towards learning," he said.

Lisa Finnen, Learning Solutions' senior data analyst, designed the way in which reports are presented. "Our guiding principle was that the reports should be easy to understand and simple to access," she said.

As a result of this project, research faculty can now easily access required training, and they’re provided with a wide range of educational choices, including workshops, conferences, and e-learning. The administrators of the system can track the data and run reports that will demonstrate the seriousness of the approach taken by Hopkins.

Finally, the architecture is something that can be reapplied to other projects. "We originally developed myLearning as a solution to support SAP training," said Tina Cole. "We are now finding that the software can be used again and again for all sorts of other purposes. This is part of our long term goal – to develop a solution once and then adapt it again and again to make sure we are using a state-of-the-art approach without the costs usually associated with deploying cutting-edge technology."

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