Innovating the Learning process: How Accel2R accelerates learning R
Clinical programming is hard — and time-consuming. Learning a new programming language is also hard — and time-consuming. How can anyone be expected to do them both at the same time?
At Experis, we tried to train clinical programmers in R for years. We gave them books. We gave them access to online eLearning courses. We hosted R lunch-and-learns every Friday.
In the end, unfortunately, the project failed. No one really retained anything. There had to be a better way to upskill clinical programmers in R.
That better way is Accel2R.
The Accel2R program was devised to greatly increase the efficiency of the R learning process. We want our clinical programmers to learn fast, to retain that knowledge, and to be able to immediately put that knowledge to use in a productive manner.
This paper explores some of the innovations that make the Accel2R guided learning program so effective.
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The R language is enormous. There are thousands of functions just in Base R, and many more thousands in community-written packages. How can you decide which functions and packages to include in your training program?
Unlike all other R learning curriculums, the core Accel2R program has a goal: to teach clinical SAS programmers how to create CDISC datasets and write TLFs using R.
By first defining a tangible and clear goal, Accel2R is able to focus the curriculum around that goal. Deciding which lessons to include in the training program now becomes much easier: If it is necessary to achieve the goal of writing CDISC datasets and TLFs, we include it. If not, we throw it out.
No other R training curriculum takes this approach.
Building Block Approach
Starting with an end goal in mind, it is then possible to build up to that goal step-by-step.
We start from the premise that the learner knows nothing about R. After some initial orientation, we then lay the foundations in Base R: variables, vectors and data frames. Then, conditionals, loops and functions.
In a systematic manner, we make our way up to Tidyverse, generating statistics and creating reports. By the end of the curriculum the learner has reached the goal: they can create CDISC datasets and TLFs confidently in R.
To ensure that the learner retains their new skills, Accel2R uses the concept of continuous reinforcement.
Each lesson has three modules: a short video demonstration, a hands-on exercise, and a knowledge check. The video introduces the new material, the exercise provides the learner with actual coding experience, and the knowledge check reinforces the learning by ensuring they have retained the most important concepts from the lesson.
In addition, the building block approach encourages continuous recycling of material. In each new lesson, learners reuse the material learned in the previous lesson.
In this way, starting from a small base, the learner both expands their knowledge and reinforces what they’ve already learned. The end result is a solid foundation in R combined with their existing knowledge of clinical programming.
Guided Learning and Learner AI
In the “free-for-all” model of learning, it is easy for people to fall through the cracks. If they stop learning, no one is there to check up on them, encourage them, or provide needed support.
Accel2R remedies that situation with the innovations of Guided Learning and Learner AI.
Guided Learning places expectations on the learner. They have a defined learning path and are expected to progress on that path at an expected rate.
Learner AI complements Guided Learning by checking that each learner is meeting expectations, and flagging those who don’t. Flagged learners are targeted for some sort of remediation: an email or a phone call. If a flagged learner continues to stagnate, the issue is raised with the learner’s manager.
The idea behind these innovations is to put some amount of pressure on the learner to complete the program. This ensures that more people meet the goal of learning R, and helps guarantee that any investment in the program is not wasted.
Office Hours and Learning Events
Almost every learner will have questions that are not answered by the training course. Recognizing this fact, the Accel2R program built in opportunities to get those questions answered.
As part of the base package, office hours and learning events are established so that users can interact with the experts who built the Accel2R curriculum.
Office hours are available once every other week. Learners may attend as often as desired. During the office hours, R technology experts are available to go over code, help solve problems, and solidify any parts of the curriculum in which the learner feels they need additional support.
Learning events are scheduled once a quarter. Each learning event has an announced topic and is broken into two sections. In the first section, an expert will present a common and useful technical concept to the learners. In the second section, the learners will have an opportunity to ask questions on the announced topic, or anything related.
These innovations are what makes Accel2R different from any other R training program. It is built specifically for clinical programmers who need to perform common clinical tasks in R. It takes a building block approach and reinforces those building blocks continuously throughout the curriculum. It puts a little pressure on learners and can notify management if people start to fall behind. Finally, it provides office hours and learning events for direct access to instructors.
Then you may be interested in our Trial Learner Program, which allows a small number of learners to test drive the program for free. To get enrolled, please contact us.