Everyone deserves the chance to lead a rich, rewarding life. That's the philosophy underpinning DirectCourse, a suite of e-learning products designed to train front-line staff in community-based services. It does that through Elsevier's online learning management system and partnerships with universities known for their research and training in community and workforce development.
The end result is a system that helps people – often those with little or no college training – help others. The individuals they support with their new-found skills and knowledge are people with various physical, mental health and developmental disabilities living in communities.
"The people taking these courses are helping others live more independent lives," said Dan Raudenbush, Director of Content and Strategy for the DirectCourse Series at Elsevier. "Many of the people being cared for may have been in institutions, and are – with this support – now able to live in the community."
DirectCourse is divided into four separate curricula, each with its own focus: The College of Direct Support provides learning materials for those supporting individuals with developmental disabilities, while the College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving does the same for individuals with physical disabilities, and older adults. The College of Employment Services is designed for those who work with people with disabilities to guide them toward meaningful employment. Finally, the College of Recovery and Community Inclusion empowers community mental health practitioners – including social workers, psychiatric nurses, counselors and case managers – to care for people with mental health conditions.
"Each is made up of lessons, and each has its own learning objective, and each brings together audio, visual and written materials to support that objective, Raudenbush explained.
Although the majority of DirectCourse's clients are agencies in the United States, there are certain other countries where the format can be applied.
"Australia, Canada and the UK all have similar support structures to the US," Raudenbush said. "So we see them as areas we would like to expand in the not too distant future. The way that people with disabilities are respected and supported are very much the same, so we could target those countries without major changes to the material."
The content for each course is developed with the input of research and training centers at universities that specialize in the relevant areas. For example, materials for the College of Direct Support are produced in partnership with the University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration, with researchers focusing on services and support for individuals with developmental disabilities.
"They've been doing this for a long time," Raudenbush said. "Not only do they develop the courses, they have a national board of editors that reviews the information they develop, based on their research. So everything gets a second level of verification out in the field. Each university we work with has the same kind of structure."
Other partners include the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, the Center for Personal Assistance Services at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities.
Additionally, DirectCourse provides on-the-job training guides, which help learners work with supervisors to ensure that they've developed skills that work in practice.
"As far as outcomes are concerned, that's something really important to our customers," said Courtney D'Avella, Product Marketing Manager for DirectCourse.
She pointed to a five-year study conducted by the University of Minnesota which demonstrated that agencies using DirectCourse had far less staff turnover.
"This study showed better outcomes for those being supported," she said. "They're more likely to set their own schedules, more likely to spend time with their families and more likely to feel positive about their relationships with others. You want to empower people, and that's what DirectCourse allows."[divider]
DirectCourse's OnCourse blog has tips and articles for those who support people with disabilities and other challenges. [divider]
Elsevier Connect Author
Ian Evans is Communications Business Partner at Elsevier, based in Oxford. He joined Elsevier two years ago from a small trade publisher specializing in popular science and literary fiction. Prior to this he worked for several years on a leading trade magazine for the electrical retail industry, reporting on new technologies and market trends in consumer electronics. He holds a degree in English literature from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and spends his spare time reading, writing, and playing drums.