Can eLearning help during the Coronavirus pandemic?

It’s March 3rd 2020 and I am part of the 1.3 billion people who are being asked to fight a global enemy by staying inside and avoiding any physical contact. It’s a strange situation and I think everyone of us is thinking whether what they know can be put to good use in fighting this Coronavirus pandemic. It’s my case as well, especially after seeing how some governments have chosen to inform their citizens about prevention measures.

TV Campaign from Ministry of Interior Affairs, Romania (Source: mai.gov.ro)

This PowerPoint-like presentation is an actual TV ad by the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Romania (watch it here), with the goal of informing citizens on key prevention methods to stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

I still wonder who thought that this visual is worthy of a 2020 TV Campaign, but let’s focus. Can this basic video have an impact and change human behaviour? How many people will pay attention to this? And how many people will really stop touching their face or avoid physical contact?

Truth is that knowledge alone is not going to change behaviour. Knowing you have to wash your hands regularily does not mean you will do it. According to the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) it’s a bit more complex than that.

Theory of planned behaviour suggests that behaviour is influenced by attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control and not by knowledge.

So, simply informing people will not work, but how can eLearning help?

1. Visualisations

Visuals can unlock secrets, tell stories and even change policies. In eLearning design, we often look for grey areas in terms of knowledge. For example, things that are too vague or confusing. In the TV campaign presented above, one advice was “Wash your hands regularly”, but what does that even mean? Is it three times a day, every hour, or every 10 minutes?

These grey areas play a negative role when people really want to change their behaviour, stopping them to do so. One thing where eLearning can help is spotting these grey areas and making powerful visualisations that can really wake people up.

During the Crimean War, in the 19th century, Florence Nightingale created these famous graphs, called coxcombs, which showed that more soldiers were dying from preventable diseases than from the actual war. These charts changed history and saved countless lives.

With Sars-CoV-2 being such a new virus, there are so many grey areas. One of the biggest grey areas is about how the virus spreads. People hear so many ways that this virus spreads (surfaces, handshake, sneeze, cough, talk, aerosols, big droplets, small droplets) that they don’t really care for any of them. If there was a pie-chart saying clearly that (let’s take a dummy example) 85% of the times, you get the virus by being less than 2 meter away from an infected person, then people would be able to be more focused in the actions they take.

Another grey area that I have already seen as being addressed is how the droplets spread through the air. This one is really important as most people tend to have very different perspectives on how these droplets travel, thinking that by sitting 1 step away from another person is safe enough.

3D Animation shows how droplets of different sizes travel through the air (Source: NHK World)

2. Chat-Bots

Access to information in a global pandemic is paramount. Many people get panicked about typical flu symptoms, or about coming in contact with an infected person and they tend overload the telephone lines, go to hospitals where they can be exposed to the virus, or even worse, search for advice on the internet.

When it comes to specific procedures that are updated on a daily basis, a chatbot can really support citizens in getting the information they need.

Even more, it can help authorities with the triage of people, informing them if they need to stay at home or come to a hospital.

It can even let you know if you are allowed to go out with your dog or to visit your grandparents in a nearby village.

I will intentionally stop here to let you join this article by proposing other ways in with eLearning can support citizens and authorities in the current Coronavirus pandemic.

Write it in the comments below :)

Ed-tech enthusiast