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MOOC Model for Workforce Development in High Demand Labor Industry of Home Health Aides/Personal Care Aides, Phase 2

Andrea Wade & Erin O’Hara-Leslie

Project Team
  • Erin O’Hara-Leslie, SUNY Broome Community College
  • Erin Hildreth, Central New York Area Health Education Center
  • Franca Armstrong, Mohawk Valley Community College
  • Kate Pitcher, SUNY Geneseo

Monroe Community College


Tier Two

Project Abstract:

The first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were developed to leverage scalability in the online delivery of content to reach an exceptionally broad and diverse group of potential learners. The MOOC concept is still rapidly evolving, as public and private institutions experiment with how to strike a balance between costs and benefits for internal and external stakeholders. And while all institutions of higher learning have been watching MOOC development with keen interest, relatively few community colleges have yet been able to make a connection between their community-focused missions and the MOOC system of delivery. For this reason, SUNY Broome Community College’s proposed project is expected to be of special interest to other community colleges as its purpose is to develop and pilot a MOOC model for workforce development in the high demand occupations of Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides (HHA/PCA).

Reflecting a national trend, the Southern Tier of New York is experiencing an acute need for HHA/PCAs to meet employment shortages. Changes in healthcare financing and the rapid aging of the population have increased the need for individuals to receive basic-level care in their homes. According to the NYS Department of Labor, the demand for Home Health Aides in the Southern Tier is expected to increase by more than 32% over the next 5 years, from 3,202 to a projected 4,000 by 2018. The demand for Personal Care Aide is likely to jump by 47% during the same time period (1,690 to 2,480).

At the same time, the current HHA/PCA educational model is struggling to produce a sufficient number of graduates. Under the traditional HHA/PCA training model, students enroll in an approved educational program in a brick-and-mortar college or training facility. They then must make transportation, childcare, and other arrangements to attend the training on location. Many of the potential students for these entry-level positions have significant limitations in financial, transportation, and other resources to reliably attend training. Many do not have a history of academic success. These factors result in a high level of attrition from training programs.

In addition, traditional community college-based education for key healthcare professions has centered on affiliations with a limited number of clinical sites local to the sponsoring college. This model limits the number of enrolled students to those that can be accommodated at clinical slots in local healthcare institutions, so student access to healthcare education and employer access to graduates of those programs is tied geographically to locations in New York State with existing programs of study.

In response, SUNY Broome is proposing to create a MOOC -like resource that will mutually benefit students, employers, and the local community, all central to the community college mission. This open training model for the education of Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides will be piloted through a collaborative effort with local HHA/PCA employers, ideally leading to regional use in subsequent years. Specifically, the proposed project involves:

• Alignment with Open SUNY priorities by investing in a high demand field, promoting collaboration, supporting educational flexibility, and advancing SUNY Broome’s willingness to serve as an early adopter of innovative teaching and learning models.
• Development of an open online training resource using the New York State-approved HHA/PCA Basic Core Curriculum that complies with federal law and is the fundamental component of the 75 hours of pre-employment training direct-care workers such as HHAs are mandated to complete.
• Designing and piloting of a custom, standards-based digital badging system to track and verify student learning in a way that is valuable to employers.
• Use of rich media and incorporating plenty of opportunities for interaction to maximize student engagement, performance and completion.
• Partnering with local employers and training facilities to pilot and evaluate the content, delivery, and usability of the virtual training resource.
• Strategic recruitment of SUNY partners who offer in-classroom HHA/PCA training to support project development and assessment strategies. (Discussions are already underway with Corning Community College.)
• Exploration of online HHA/PCA training models in other states, such as Florida and Georgia, to incorporate best practices from those existing models.
• Assessment of the efficacy of the model, as based on student retention and successful completion of the training program.

SUNY Broome’s online Clinical Laboratory Technician Associate in Applied Science degree program attests to the College’s unique qualifications to lead this project. This model program was recently selected as one of only eight programs to be offered in the first wave of the Open SUNY initiative. Communities and hospitals in rural areas that have had difficulties recruiting these professionals can now offer working adults the opportunity to advance professionally by enrolling in this Open-SUNY powered program. Graduates already invested in their community are also more likely to be retained as long-term members of the workforce in the community in which they trained.

Similarly, the home health care employer selected upfront as a key collaborator for this project has a long-established, reputable presence in the local community. As a Licensed Home Health Care Agency, Interim HealthCare’s Binghamton-based franchise has been providing nurses, aides and companions to assist people in their homes since 1979. Interim’s Director of Health Services, Tracy Smith, has also held officer positions on the Coalition for Home Health Care1 for more than 15 years. As a standing member of the Coalition’s executive committee, Ms. Smith has committed to assisting SUNY Broome’s PI and Co-PI with recruiting additional employers from the Coalition’s membership, along with their employees, to participate in the project as content experts and/or usability testers during the multi-phased design of the proposed MOOC.

Ultimately, SUNY Broome envisions that the HHA/PCA Workforce Development MOOC to be developed and evaluated during the 12-month project period will lead to the future establishment of a web-based HHA/PCA Workforce Resource Center that serves as:

• A recruitment tool to educate potential students about the requirements, skills, and employment prospects for the job.
• An open resource for student training that uses a vetted badging system as an indicator of progress and successful completion of learning objectives.
• A conduit for successful MOOC completers to enroll in approved HHA/PCA training programs local to the students.
• A virtual location for employers to post job opportunities and for graduates to search for opportunities.

The bottom line: Support for SUNY Broome and project collaborators to transform the New York State-approved HHA/PCA Basic Core Curriculum into an open online, MOOC-like resource - and one that touts endorsement from local employers - is a short-term investment that has great potential for long-term dividends in the form of further advancements, enhancements, and adaptions, as well as replication and scalability efforts.

(1) The Coalition for Home Health Care was established in 1986 to provide channels for cooperation and unity among home health care employers, health and human services providers, planners, and policy makers in Broome and Tioga Counties, NY. Its membership currently consists of 14 Licensed Home Care Services Agencies based in Broome County, two Certified Home Health Agencies serving Brome & Tioga counties, Lourdes Hospice, Broome County & Tioga County Health Departments, Broome County Office for Aging’s EISEP, and Broome County CASA.

Project Outcome:

MOOC posted on Transitioning to Coursera on-demand portal.

Project Outcome Report