Evaluating Continuing Education Programs

Prior to enrolling in a continuing education program, determine your educational and professional goals and needs. Review promotional materials and brochures, which should contain the following elements:

  • Clearly defined rationale for the program
  • Clearly identified target audience
  • Clearly identified instructional level*
  • Stated learning outcomes
  • Reasonable objectives, based on the length of the program
  • Clearly delineated program description or outline
  • Content is described based on best available evidence in practice
  • Specified limit to the maximum number of participants for a demonstration course
  • Clearly identified faculty qualifications
  • Clearly identified instructional methods that are appropriate to the content
  • Clearly identified source and number of CEUs
  • Reasonable fee compared with other programs
  • Continuing education provider's address and telephone number
  • Clearly identified statement about the provider's fees and cancellation policy
  • Course title that adequately represents the program content
  • Attendee endorsements of the program

During a continuing education program, consider the following components of a high-quality continuing education program:

Handout Materials

  • Were comprehensive and up-to-date
  • Contained bibliographic references and original peer reviewed research appropriate to the program content.

Instructor(s)

  • Established rapport with the audience
  • Reviewed the program objectives
  • Were knowledgeable and provided up-to-date content, including citing scientific sources and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific evidence relevant to the topic.
  • Used appropriate teaching methods for the stated learning outcomes
  • Were open to questions and discussion
  • Showed enthusiasm and generated curiosity for the content
  • Were genuinely interested in the needs and concerns of the audience
  • Used teaching strategies that engaged participants in active learning
  • Used a variety of instructional methods
  • Instructed at a pace that allowed the participants to process the content
  • Maintained a teaching pace that was appropriate for the majority of the audience
  • Occasionally summarized the content, reemphasizing key points
  • Provided feedback to participants and appropriately responded to questions from the audience

Course Assessment Tools

  • Were available for use by participants to evaluate the program
  • Assessed the achievement of the learning outcomes

Environment:

  • Was conducive to learning and met the physical needs of the participants
  • Allowed for participant interaction
  • Provided accommodations to individuals with special needs

Instructional Level*:

  • Basic (1) - This level assumes that participants have little information within the areas to be covered so that the focus of the activity is a general orientation and increased awareness.
  • Intermediate (2) - This level assumes that the participants have a general familiarity with the topic, so it focuses on increased understanding and application.
  • Advanced (3) - This level assumes thorough familiarity with the topic and focuses on advanced techniques, recent advances, and future directions.
  • Various (0) - This category indicates that a single level cannot be determined. It is intended for programs in which the instructional level may vary.

SS: An important component of any continuing education offering should be its emphasis on evidence-based practice. Methods of evaluating the inclusion of evidence throughout the course and its advertising will assist members in choosing courses wisely.

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