Catching Up with COVID

How healthcare online training courses ramped up in response to a global pandemic.

GUEST COLUMN | by Misty Frost

Online learning has been in the spotlight since March of this year as schools all over the world went from in-person to totally virtual, with varied results. This fall saw the transition for many universities and K-12 districts to hybrid learning models, with some educational institutions sticking with a 100% virtual approach.

‘The global pandemic has changed the way we view online education for good. It has also helped learners re-imagine their careers and quickly gain new skills to get back to work.’

The latest undergraduate and graduate enrollment changes report by trusted industry analyst Phil Hill shows a sharp decline in enrollment at two and four-year colleges, while enrollment in for-profit programs – many of them with a long history of being offered online – are up.

Missing from the report is a sector that is experiencing growth during the pandemic – certification programs offered by online career training organizations like Penn Foster and Carrus. Throughout the year, companies in this sector have seen the specific needs of the healthcare industry and responded, ramping up their curriculum and launching accelerated courses that can help learners join the $2,487.7 billion healthcare industry or gain new skills to move their careers forward.

Skills Training Now More Than Ever

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted employment in the United States as we know it. More than 20 million Americans are unemployed because of coronavirus restrictions and shutdowns, while millions more are left wondering if their jobs are secure—or if they need to consider a new career path. With uncertainty on how long COVID-19 will upend daily life and how the economy will respond in the coming years, reliable employment and real-world skills training matter now more than ever.

Despite traditional education enrollment numbers trending downward, online learning numbers continue to rise. People realize that in today’s job market, job skill training is essential. The competition is fierce, and people fight for the attention of the country’s fastest-growing companies every day. A candidate’s schooling could be what helps them land their dream job.

The pandemic has shown that there are many different ways to get an education. Outside of a four-year university degree, there are alternative education options like trade school and online career training that may make more sense, especially as people look to quickly pivot their careers and find meaningful employment.

Helping Healthcare Workers in Particular

In the spring, we saw training organizations launch accredited courses focusing on infectious diseases, addressing all major elements of infection prevention. Courses like this made sense as they helped existing healthcare workers sharpen their skills as they worked to help patients infected by the COVID-19 virus. These types of online learning programs were designed specifically for practicing Allied Health Professionals but could also be accessed by anyone interested in learning more about infection control.

As the pandemic raged and hotspots emerged throughout the country, the need for infection prevention training became more urgent—not only for healthcare workers but for the emergency providers, law enforcement officers, community crisis teams, and other non-healthcare workers called upon to assist. Online training provided much-needed education for these workers on their own time while allowing them to stay in their jobs, on the frontline of fighting the pandemic.

During the summer, healthcare – like many industries – saw increasing layoffs. Once again, online certification programs became an answer to a troubling question. How could laid-off workers find a job in an industry they loved? The answer was rapid retraining and certification to meet current industry needs.

Rising Enrollments, Return to Work

As such, providers of online learning programs launched accelerated courses and programs and have seen enrollment rise. Learners enrolled in new programs designed to help them return to work quickly. The programs also enabled hospitals and health systems to provide expanded skills training to their employees.

Designed to help learners enter or advance their healthcare careers, these new programs include accelerated training for in-demand roles, including Contact Tracing & Infection Control, EKG Technician, (Hemo)Dialysis Technician, and Phlebotomy Technician. Learners can take courses on their own time and can complete coursework in as little as one to three months.

These online certificate programs are designed to help healthcare workers fight the pandemic and the scourge of unemployment as they prepare for a career in healthcare, administration, or technology. When offered as professional development, the courses offer hospitals and health systems the chance to retrain and retain their employees.

The global pandemic has changed the way we view online education for good. It has also helped learners re-imagine their careers and quickly gain new skills to get back to work.

Misty serves as the CEO of Carrus, an organization dedicated to building learning experiences that allow individuals to enter and then grow their careers in healthcare. Misty has extensive global experience as a senior executive. Over her 25-year career, she has served in senior leadership roles at innovative companies such as Instructure and Datamark. In addition, she has worked in a variety of client advocacy roles for global brands including Intel, Nortel Networks, Hyatt Hotels, and Disney. Misty is also an active member of Women Tech Council and Utah Wonder Women, a group dedicated to developing women’s executive leadership.

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