collaborative work is best done at meetings and work sessions that physically bring people together.
Many academic institutions, along with state health agencies and CDC, offer short courses, seminars, or workshops addressing specific public health training needs. One approach taken to meet the demand for distance-based training is the Public Health Training Network. This network has provided training to nearly 1 million people on a wide range of subjects in a variety of formats: print-based self-instruction, interactive multimedia, videotapes, two-way audio conferences, and interactive satellite videoconferences (CDC, 2001c).
As distance-learning technology improves and new electronic delivery modalities become more widespread, online in-service training opportunities will be more accessible. These new approaches under development will assist in providing training opportunities for public health workers who are not able to participate in classroom-based educational programs. The use of web-based tools for education is referred to as distance learning (Riegelman and Persily, 2001). Distance-learning programs and new information technologies are perceived to be a boon to meeting the educational needs of the public health workforce in the United States (Cannon et al., 2001). Although this development builds on more than two decades of computer networking activities (e.g., e-mail and bulletin board systems), increased access to the Internet has produced phenomenal growth in the extent and scope of online education. Teaching and learning on the World Wide Web demand new and special skills from teachers and learners alike.
Another educational approach attracting attention is service learning, defined as the “method under which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs, that are integrated into the student’s academic curriculum or provide structured time for reflection, and that enhance what is taught in school by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community” (Rhoads and Howard, 1998). According to Porter and Monard (2001) “understanding and fostering reciprocity is a central aim of service-learning programs,” meaning that service-learning programs differ from other practical educational approaches in that their intent is to benefit both the provider and the recipient of the service and to emphasize equally the provision of service and the learning experience (Cauley et al., 2001).
According to Howard (2001), three criteria must be met for a course to be considered service learning:
Service that is both relevant and meaningful to all stakeholder parties must be provided in the community.