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It’s Not Either/Or: How Offering a Variety of Types of Childbirth Classes Is the Key to Educating More Parents

With Lisa Harrington, MS, BS, CCE (ACBE)

As part of our guest blog series, Lisa Harrington, MS, BS, CCE (ACBE), Health Education Program Coordinator at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, answers questions about the types of classes they offer in their childbirth education program, including online eClasses in English & Spanish from InJoy and educator-led virtual classes. Part of the Care New England health system, Women & Infants is in an urban/rural corridor with a diverse population and serves 8,500 births each year.

  • Why did your organization choose to offer online classes initially, pre-COVID?

We first started offering online classes created by InJoy in 2014, when we decided we needed to meet the needs of families who could not attend in-person classes due to schedule conflicts, illness, or storms. We have Nor’easters almost year-round that affect power and travel. We wanted to be able to quickly provide education to those families whose classes were cancelled. eClasses were a lifesaver in many ways! We also started providing eClasses on the antepartum unit (and we still do). These patients didn’t have the option to come to an in-person class and could take the online class on the unit.

  • Currently, why does your organization offer both live virtual classes and self-paced online eClasses?

We feel it is good to offer the material in different ways. When COVID restrictions started, it took us about 6 months to train educators to teach virtually and figure out how to adapt our curriculum, so we provided only eClasses during that time. Now, many families want to connect to an educator in real time and like the community aspect, so they choose a live virtual class. We’ve found that other families prefer learning on their own, so they choose an eClass where they can go back and look at the information as many times as they like.

We are reaching some more people than we would if we were only offering live virtual classes. Some families have varied schedules and it makes it difficult if both partners want to attend a live class that is locked into certain dates and times. We also serve a large Spanish-speaking population. While they do not make up a large percentage of those who sign up for eClasses, it is currently our only outlet for educating this population due to a shortage of Spanish-speaking educators.

  • Which topics do you offer as eClasses, and how did you choose them?

We offer Understanding Birth, Understanding Breastfeeding, and Understanding Your Newborn because we want to offer alternatives to our most popular classes. The feedback we get from those who take our eClasses is positive.

We’ve found that some families like the Understanding Breastfeeding eClass in particular because they are uncomfortable talking in a public forum about the topic, especially partners. They appreciate being able to watch sensitive breastfeeding videos privately and have more time to review them than they do in a live class.

Also, we recently expanded our eClass offerings to include Understanding Your Multiples. Due to current staffing changes and limitations on our Zoom license, we can’t offer a live virtual class for parents expecting multiples, so now we have a way to provide them with education.

  • How do your registration numbers and pricing compare for both models?

About 65% of our registrants sign up for live virtual classes and 35% sign up for self-paced online eClasses. We charge the same amount for live virtual classes and eClasses since they offer a similar scope of content and generally take the same amount of time to complete. We have not gotten any pushback from parents on the pricing of either option.

  • How do you create a connection with parents who take eClasses?

Through the registration process and with the “Ask the Educator” feature, where parents can send me questions privately. We also utilize a set of Services & Info pages to share information about where to park, where to enter the hospital, and other details.

  • Ideally, what does the future look like for the types of classes your hospital will offer when restrictions are lifted?

Women & Infants Hospital plans on offering in-person classes, live virtual classes, and eClasses. In-person classes likely won’t restart until 2023, as we are still in a “wait and see” mode with COVID restrictions.

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Lisa Harrington, MS, BS, CCE (ACBE), Health Education Program Coordinator at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island

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