Monday, July 16, 2012

MLearning & Checklists - A Killer App for Performance Support

In the last 20 years or so there has been a lot of discussion about electronic performance support systems (EPSS). Whilst a general statement I think it is fair to say that the promise of just in time performance support has not been delivered on. However, the arrival of smart mobile devices, the mobile internet and the simple checklist is about to change all that.

Mobile delivered performance support is ideal because the best performance support: is available instantly at the point it is needed, it is truly just in time can be applied immediately in a work context, thus it is part of the workflow as it is part of the act of doing something is short, you don't need to read or remember lots before you perform a task The type of content does not require a great deal of design for example it could be a checklist, a short video or animation. Thus content for performance support can be disaggregated from existing learning materials and made available as a series of resources, something Nick Shackleton-Jones has long advocated.

 The advantage of disaggregation, and delivering performance support as individual resources, also means it is easier to deliver to all forms of mobile devices. A PDF checklist or a short movie can be delivered to all devices without necessarily needing to develop a native app or a web app. Whilst there is a content review task the simplicity of performance support content means that the costs in terms of instructional design or technical development are quite low. One particular area worth exploring is checklists.

There is a large body of evidence now to show that checklists are very powerful as they remove reliance on an individual's memory and can take less experienced staff through complex tasks. Checklists though are not just for inexperienced staff, they are used extensively in areas where you already have experienced staff from surgeons to pilots. The potential power of checklists was explored in this great article on the power of checklists. It may seem a simple thing but the story (set out in full in the article) is telling.

In summary: In 2001, a critical-care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital named Peter Pronovost created a checklist to tackle just one problem: line infections. The checklist was simple Doctors were supposed to (1) wash their hands with soap, (2) clean the patient’s skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic, (3) put sterile drapes over the entire patient, (4) wear a sterile mask, hat, gown, and gloves, and (5) put a sterile dressing over the catheter site once the line is in. Check, check, check, check, check. However, in observations in more than one third of cases Doctors skipped on at least one step.

 The checklist was used to enforce the five steps even though to many Doctors they were obvious. The results were dramatic: the ten-day line-infection rate went from eleven per cent to zero. So they then followed patients for fifteen more months. Only two line infections occurred during the entire period. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs.

 Checklists clearly have a role to play in performance support whether you are a skilled pilot or relatively new to your role. They reduce reliance on memory, ensure minimum best practice and are ideally available just in time. What better place to have them available than on your mobile device.