Online drugs training program promotes harm reduction in our communities

Chris Boag is the acting operations manager at Penington Institute and has extensive experience managing distributed teams across large territories. Here Chris talks about Penington’s online drugs training program and the need for simple, evidence-based harm reduction information that can be disseminated widely.

What is Penington’s online drugs training program?

Penington’s online drugs training program consists of an interactive online learning course containing three e-learning modules, which is accessed through a Moodle-based learning management system (LMS). The modules have been produced in response to a need for simple, evidence-based harm reduction information that can be disseminated widely. Currently there is very little material in the harm reduction field that utilises online training. This program was converted into an online format by eWorks’ content development team to complement the existing materials.

The program aims to provide basic information about evidence-based harm reduction to non-specialist workers and to friends and families of drug users. The target audience is:

  • frontline workers in the primary and secondary Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) system in Victoria
  • family support groups
  • community health and housing support
  • clients of these services and their families and friends.

Why an online drugs training program?

Penington Institute is funded by The State Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to provide support, including training, for Victoria’s needle and syringe services. They are also funded to act as a peak body for harm reduction, and part of that is about raising the profile of harm reduction in the wider community.

The Drugs Program has been developed to provide simple, introductory information to service providers across a wide range of community support agencies. Staff working in primary needle and syringe services are generally dedicated, full time Needle & Syringe Program (NSP) workers and will have a level of knowledge beyond what these programs provide. This is not always the case for their co-workers who work in other sections of community health, however. Such co-workers tend to work:

  • in the secondary NSP system
  • part-time
  • in different roles where NSP is not the primary focus
  • in other client support roles such as housing and mental health.

Dissemination of training to these staff members is vital to ensure a consistent, evidence-based approach to harm reduction. Penington Institute easily accesses the primary network as it is concentrated in a few locations, but getting information to the other audiences is much harder because they are widely distributed, making  the traditional workshops approach more difficult. The online drugs training programs are ideal for self-paced learning across a large number of sites.

An interactive online learning course

Penington’s online drugs training program consists of an interactive online learning course containing three e-learning modules, which is accessed through a Moodle-based learning management system (LMS). Each module is setup as a separate Moodle course, containing a pre-module quiz, SCORM packaged e-learning module, post-module quiz, and certificate of completion.

1. Introduction to crystal methamphetamine

he first module provides basic information about the different types of methamphetamine used in Australia, including the growing use of ICE (crystal methamphetamine). The Introduction to this module includes information about how the drugs are taken and some of the harms that may arise. Ice-affected clients behave differently depending on how problematic their drug use is, and the module gives signs and symptoms that should be looked for. It also provides information about how severely affected clients should be dealt with in order to minimise the risk of aggressive behaviour.

2. Introduction to brief interventions

Workers in the alcohol and other drug (AOD) field are trained to use the brief interventions technique to get clients thinking about change. It is a commonly used and simple technique that can be implemented with minimal training. The Introduction to Brief Interventions module gives a brief overview of the technique, including some of the underlying theoretical support for it, and suggests when the technique can be used.

3. Introduction to young people and drugs

The Introduction to Young People and Drugs module provides a general overview of how young people learn about drugs and experiment with them. Evidence-based information about harms related to drug use is provided along with simple harm reduction information.

Penington Institute acknowledges the financial assistance of the Ian Potter Foundation, Community and Wellbeing Fund, the Telematics Trust, Course Development Fund, and the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services for making the development of the three modules possible.

How to participate in Penington’s online drugs training program

Penington’s online drugs training program will be launched during September 2015. All three e-leaning modules have been designed so that they can be accessed via mobile and tablet devices. To self-register to access the modules please visit Penington’s login page.

Recognising innovation and excellence in e-learning

eWorks and Penington are finalists for an E-learning Excellence Award in 2015 for this interesting and important project. Hosted by the E-learning Industry Association, the annual E-learning Excellence Awards recognise innovation and achievement in the e-learning industry. In 2014 eWorks was shortlisted for a project undertaken with The Australian Childhood Foundation involving the creation of an online training system to support personnel working with children and young people who have experienced abuse and trauma. Both projects are excellent examples of taking existing content and making it more accessible and engaging by converting it to an online format. Please keep your fingers and toes crossed for us for an award in 2015!