February 2007

Grant Results


Staff of University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), an alliance of academic health care organizations in Oakbrook, Ill., developed the UHC Learning Exchange, an online platform on which academic health care organizations can develop and share courses, best practices and organization-specific information.

Five academic health care organizations and 3,500 employees participated in the pilot phase.

Key Results
UHC staff accomplished the following:

  • Refined and implemented the technology infrastructure needed to deliver UHC Learning Exchange courses and other content, with support from a subcontractor.
  • Developed and piloted 12 courses for frontline and management employees, with support from a subcontractor. Three of those courses were developed with RWJF funds.
  • Garnered board approval to make the Learning Exchange an official UHC program available to all member organizations.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $43,200 for this unsolicited project from August 1, 2005, to April 30, 2006.

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University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) is an alliance of academic health care organizations founded in 1984 in Oak Brook, Ill. UHC provides resources to help its 95 members and 139 associate members improve their performance in clinical, operational and financial areas.

Although UHC member organizations recognized the importance of employee development and education to academic health centers, resource constraints often prevented them from providing sufficient on-the-job training. UHC staff concluded that online learning offered a solution, but found that no Web-based courses specific to the needs of academic health care organizations were available.

In 2004, UHC staff began to explore technology for providing online education and information exchanges. In April 2005, the UHC board approved creation of the UHC Shared Virtual University Model for Health Care Organizations and staff began to develop courses.

In September 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded a $43,200 grant to UHC. UHC provided the remaining funds for the $250,000 project.

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The Human Capital Portfolio supports work to help attract, develop and retain high-quality leaders and workers in health and health care. Current work concentrates in three areas: policy and leadership, field building, and workforce development and diversity.

In 2005, RWJF started developing new programs to build and strengthen the frontline health and health care workforce — the network of people such as social workers, home health aides, addiction counselors and nursing assistants — who provide regular care and services to patients.

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University HealthSystem Consortium staff developed an online platform on which consortium member organizations can jointly develop and share courses, best practices and organization-specific information.

During the pilot phase of the UHC Shared Virtual University, which was renamed the UHC Learning Exchange during the grant period, staff:

  • Partnered with Knowledge Planet, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., to refine and implement the technology required to host and support online courses and other content, and to train UHC staff.
  • Recruited five academic health care organizations to test the online courses:
    • The University of Virginia Health System (Charlottesville, Va.)
    • Truman Medical Centers (Kansas City, Mo.)
    • University of California San Diego Medical Center
    • University of Colorado Hospital (Denver)
    • Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (Richmond, Va.)

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According to Project Director Debra Bragg, this project accomplished the following:

  • The UHC Learning Exchange piloted 12 courses for frontline and management staff. The courses were structured in 20-minute modules to maximize flexibility for learners.
    • UHC subject matter experts developed eight courses. Three of these were funded by the RWJF grant: Behavioral Interviewing; Diversity and Cultural Competence; and Pain Control.
    • UHC contracted with Performax3 to provide content for four courses. The company, based in Clearwater, Fla., specializes in compliance and regulatory courses.
  • Participating organizations agreed to have 3,500 employees pilot these courses.
  • UHC staff surveyed all employees as they completed each course to gauge their satisfaction with course content, method of delivery and other issues. According to the project director, learners reported that:
    • Course content met or exceeded their expectations.
    • They liked having options as to when and where they could study.
    • The module approach enabled them to study during lunch and breaks and to take courses from home.
  • A steering committee solicited feedback from member organizations. According to the project director, organizations reported that:
    • They had a better sense of how well they were complying with mandatory education requirements for their employees.
    • They valued the capacity to track all courses taken by employees automatically.
  • As a result of positive feedback from participants, the UHC Learning Exchange became an official UHC program available to all member organizations on January 1, 2006. Members pay a subscription fee to access the program.

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  1. Developing course content and writing the course curricula involve different skills, and therefore require different experts. The initial model for developing courses used a subject matter expert as both content contributor and course author. UHC revised this approach to involve different experts in the two tasks. (Project Director)
  2. The technical capacity of employees and their organizations vary considerably. Detailed written communication did not eliminate technical and user problems. Learners needed an on-site person when the pilot was launched to walk them through the system and courses. (Project Director)

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As of October 2006, three of the five academic health centers that piloted the courses, and 15,000 of their employees, were participating in the UHC Learning Exchange. Several other organizations will join in 2007.

UHC staff expects that the Learning Exchange will become self-supporting in 2008, and plans to continually develop new and update existing courses.

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Piloting a Shared Virtual University Model for Health Care Organizations


University HealthSystem Consortium (Oak Brook,  IL)

  • Amount: $ 43,200
    Dates: September 2005 to April 2006
    ID#:  053610


Project Director: Debra Bragg
(630) 954-1773

Web Site


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(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

World Wide Web Sites

https://www.uhc.edu/1245.htm is an e-learning resource for developing, delivering and managing academic medical center professional development, training and continuing education in a collaborative environment.

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Report prepared by: Jordanka Lazarevic
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Constance Pechura