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mHero for Learning: mPowering’s Take on Integrating Training Materials into mHero

By Carolyn Moore

The story of mHero illustrates how simple mobile technology can connect frontline health workers to supervisors, information, and each other. This year, mPowering Frontline Health Workers (mPowering) collaborated with IntraHealth Interational’s mHero team to understand how this same connection could help health workers access training and educational materials on their mobile devices.

Our team was excited to collaborate with IntraHealth and engage on different aspects of the mHero platform. mPowering specializes in helping health workers connect to training and new information on their mobile devices. We have seen how mobile training can supplement traditional workshops; how mobile curricula can help health workers keep their skills fresh; and how on-demand resources can answer urgent questions. Visit our ORB platform for examples of free-to-use mobile training content.

Photo courtesy of mPowering Frontline Health Workers

Photo of The Orb courtesy of mPowering Frontline Health Workers

As part of the mHero Grand Challenge, IntraHealth and mPowering looked at how the connection that mHero provides among Ministries, supervisors, and health workers could serve not only as a source of information, but of education. As part of our collaboration, we assessed the options for delivery of mobile training materials to mHero users, and learned more about how training can be included in existing mHealth programs more broadly.

Starting with the User
Our first step was to understand how training materials could be useful to an mHero user. Frontline health workers use mHero to communicate with their supervisors, and get the information they need to do their jobs. With the right approach, mobile training materials could make this link even stronger.

For example, health workers can use mHero to take surveys, which could probe about their training needs. Ministries and supervisors can use the information they gather through mHero to design trainings to meet the needs that health workers report. But what if supervisors could respond immediately? For example, if a health worker said that he needed more training in how to give good care during labor, he could be directed to a video like this one to refresh his skills while training strategies are developed.

In addition, administrators can use multimedia materials to share information with health workers. For example, if an administrator noticed an increase of malaria cases in a specific district, she could use mHero to ask health workers in the area to share a video like this one with their clients. In the case of a new outbreak or emergency, mHero administrators could use video to rapidly train health workers to respond.

Options for Integration
Building from the use cases we identified, mPowering and the mHero team looked at a range of options for how to integrate training content into mHero. Technology is always an important consideration; and the design of mHero has ensured a simple, user-friendly interface that health workers can use on their own mobile devices. In the mHero: Video and Gamification Integration Options toolkit, mPowering presented the pros and cons of technical options for integrating training content into the existing tool.

A quick, low-tech solution to sharing video resources would be to distribute video files onto health workers’ phones via SD card, Bluetooth, or another method of peer-to-peer sharing. This option is popular because it doesn’t require any development, and uses low-cost technologies that most trainers and health workers already know well. However, it doesn’t allow for remote updates. It also doesn’t allow for detailed analysis, so she wouldn’t necessarily know how many health workers had watched the videos.  

To allow for instant updates, better analytics, and simpler navigation for the user, training content could be integrated into the workflow in mHero. For example, if a health worker indicates in a workflow that she would like more training on family planning counseling, the workflow could include a link to a video of training content from ORB. The new Video and Gamification toolkit describes options and next steps for integration – from a less structured approach which would point users to a video, to a more integrated approach which would allow users to watch videos, take quizzes, and give feedback in the mHero interface.

Adding Gamification
Looking to the future, we saw opportunities for mHero to include learning opportunities through multimedia, and to engage their users through gamification. Gamification – or including elements typically seen in games – is a great way to make training engaging for health workers. For example, OppiaMobile uses points and badges to reward health workers for doing educational activities, like watching a video or taking a quiz.  

The options for integration of gamification build upon options for integration of training content. Depending on how content is integrated, both from a training and a technical standpoint, gamification could range from a simple points system to an interaction system of leaderboards and badges. Read the toolkit for a more detailed introduction to gamification and its applications in health and education; and ideas for how this could work within mHero.

Lessons for mHealth
Around the world, health workers are using their phones to collect data, talk with their peers and supervisors, and make diagnoses. Many are supported by smart, user-friendly mobile tools. In mPowering’s work, we have seen how high the potential is to integrate mobile training into these existing mHealth programs.

I’m excited to share the new mHero Video and Gamification Integration Options toolkit. Though the toolkit is set in the context of mHero, the lessons apply more broadly. The toolkit describes some of the options for including training content and gamification into mobile health programs, and the pros and cons for each approach. Visit the toolkit to see which option might be a good fit for your own work.

Carolyn Moore is a Program Officer at mPowering Frontline Health Workers