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Oregon Community Colleges Collaborate on Healthcare Distance Ed

The Oregon Community Colleges Healthcare Education Alliance is looking to expand availability of its healthcare-related degrees and certificates through distance education, and it's calling on Pearson technology to help with that effort. The work builds on a previous $2.2 million initiative funded by the state to help the 17 community colleges making up the alliance meet their local healthcare workforce needs by providing access to programs and curriculum across campuses.

The labor shortage in the state is acute. A report from the Oregon Center for Nursing projected that by 2020, "one out of every two nursing positions will be vacant." The same report estimated that demand for healthcare services will grow by 30 percent over the same period.

The latest work will encourage people to pursue their associate degrees or certificates through distance education or hybrid models in those same colleges. It will deliver training programs via Pearson subsidiary eCollege's learning management system, LearningStudio. The colleges will also have access to Pearson assessment and analytics tools to measure student performance and retention and track the achievement of program goals.

The first school to adopt the LMS for the healthcare offerings will be Linn-Benton Community College, which offers an associate degree in diagnostic imaging and is developing another for occupational therapy assistant. It will be followed by new programs at Central Oregon Community College and Mt. Hood Community College in pharmacy technician, addiction counseling, and health informatics.

"Oregon is a very rural state," said Ann Malosh, dean of Business, Healthcare and Workforce at Linn Benton CC. "Previously, many students who wanted to get an education in this field would have to move to Portland or another part of the valley, and when they completed their studies, often they would not return to their hometowns to provide much-needed healthcare services there. We're excited about the opportunities this program creates for rural students, who can now receive healthcare training closer to home. It's the 'grow your own' concept and we have found it works. It will help us attract, educate and retain more healthcare professionals here in Oregon."

An important aspect of the new work is for Pearson to work with the Alliance to address guidelines for the curriculum laid out by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (Online Learning), which were developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC). These guidelines specify how to show evidence of learning, retention, evaluation, and student support services.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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