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Beginning Well: The Guiding Principles of the Expanded MLA Education Program

The Education Strategic Goal calls on MLA to become the go-to education resource for health information professionals. In the next three to five years MLA will significantly expand the quality, quantity, variety, and reach of our education offerings. The MLA Board, at its May 2016 meeting, has helped ensure that the education program begins and continues well by approving guiding principles for the education program’s expansion.

The principles are based on the goal itself, board and staff discussions, good association practices, current MLA practices, and common sense. The principles will drive all aspects of the education program expansion, from reorganization of committees and the design of our new learning management system, to creation of courses and other education offerings.

The Guiding Principles of the Education Program


  • Curriculum anchored in revised professional competencies
  • Audiences identified
  • Prioritization: “what we want to teach to whom” and when


  • Easy to find classes
  • Central learning space
  • Compelling course design and online experience


  • Members set curriculum direction
  • Members provide content expertise


  • Standards and procedures

Resource savvy

  • Judicious use of member and staff capacity       
  • Self-funded product development
  • “Entrepreneurial” business program

Some of the principles, such as “learner-centric,” explain themselves. “Resource savvy” was addressed in a recent FSA post.

“Member-focused” deserves special attention. In deploying resources and divvying up responsibilities, there are many roles that belong, by rights and by skill, to members. Among other things, members will set the direction for curriculum development and provide expertise in developing content.

The MLA Board is working to create an organizational structure to support member leadership in developing and championing the vision of the expanded education program. The recently adopted Strategic Goal to strengthen Sections and SIGs, introduced by President Teresa Knott, promises to yield structure and guidance to member groups in creating educational content.

As for “intentional,” the Strategic Priorities Task Force has done important work in identifying audiences to aid in determining what we teach to whom and when. The Competencies Task Force, with the help of a regional medical library project award, has just completed an intensive effort to move forward its revisions of the MLA Professional Competencies, which will be the foundation for curriculum development. Watch this space for an announcement of the revised competencies!

It’s fitting to end this account of beginning well with mention of one last guiding principle, “excellence.” By excellence, the Board means, specifically, such things as developing checklists to assess quality of course design and standards for 508 compliance and acceptable use. Excellence also means, broadly, doing everything well. I hope that the big plans we have for MLA education will result in a program that truly earns the word.

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