COPH introduces the Lifelong Learning Academy

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The USF College of Public Health (COPH) is introducing a new way of learning and teaching beyond the degree programs.

The COPH Lifelong Learning Academy (LLA) was developed in response to proposed legislation to address public health workforce gaps, including positions required to prevent, prepare for and respond to public health emergencies.

The LLA is designed to provide an array of lifelong learning and educational opportunities to enhance the public health practitioner’s knowledge, skills, competence and performance to improve public health practice. The courses and webinars are taught by COPH faculty.

“The LLA provides the infrastructure to support workforce development outside of formal academic degrees,” said Dr. Janice Zgibor, professor and associate dean for academic affairs. “The field of public health is constantly evolving and changing. Through the LLA, public health practitioners will have a resource to advance their skillsets.”

Created with the understanding that traditional education models may not be suitable for evolving learner needs and that employers are demanding continuous learning and new skills, the LLA’s flexible educational platform incorporates alternative learning options and offers digital badging for the verification of credentials.

COPH alumni interested in advancing their careers and workforce development opportunities are encouraged to participate in LLA courses. These include community-based public health professionals working in hospital systems, epidemiologists, community health workers, laboratory professionals, public health department staff, clinicians and those working in public health organizations.

This June, the COPH LLA launched its first micro-certificate in genomics.

Micro-certificates are affordable, competency-based short-cycle programs that offer digital badging and CPH credit designed for public health professionals to upskill or reskill in a specific area.

The public health lab bioinformatics course, a core course of the genomics micro-certificate, is available now. This continuing-education activity is ideal for public health laboratory and hospital personnel to increase their genomics knowledge base for career advancement.

The program provides training in NextGen sequencing and bioinformatics workflows, preparing professionals to fill gaps in the workforce. Participants will strengthen their knowledge base in genomics to successfully integrate new technologies into their laboratories.

The next course in that sequence will be the applied genomics course. Depending on consumer interest and needs, faculty are prepared to design elective courses in fundamentals of genetics, experimental design of meta-omics, drug discovery, targeted therapies and emerging technologies.

“We have also received interest in offering micro-certificates focused on disease intervention, infection control, child advocacy and disaster management,” said Dr. Ann Joyce, associate director of continuing education. “These flexible and innovative pathways are available to the public to help practitioners scale and speed to career placement. Our goal is to offer webinars for every public health topic that our alumni and community partners are interested in.”

The COPH LLA team is invested in producing quality workforce development opportunities in which learners can utilize new skills in their professional careers. Their first step is to work with community partners and stakeholders to complete a landscape analysis, getting a better understanding of their needs to maximize the impact of the academy’s deliverables. Planning meetings are scheduled with stakeholders for future micro-certificates to launch in 2023.

“The COPH LLA is an innovative approach to addressing workforce development for our alumni and community,” said Joyce. “I’m excited to be trailblazing this opportunity with the COPH.”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health