Optimizing online learning resources for substance use professionals in England: lessons from user-centered design

Robert Calder*, J. Neale, E. Simonavičius, K. D. Dyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Online learning has the potential to improve best practice in substance use treatment by facilitating access to high-quality resources. A user-centered design (UCD) approach can identify the needs, motivating factors, and working contexts of learners. Aim: The aim of this study was to identify ways of improving online learning for people working in substance use treatment services in England. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 31 substance use professionals in England and 14 other professionals working in the field. Participants were asked about their training needs, working contexts, and current use of online resources. Data were analyzed according to the principles of UCD via Iterative Categorisation. Results: Participants reported “unmet needs” for training in therapeutic relationships and advanced therapeutic techniques. They enjoyed training that demonstrably improved the quality of life for people who use drugs and that provided career and personal development opportunities. Participants completed many mandatory online courses that were short and unpopular. Access to training was limited by time and financial constraints, with online training partially addressing these barriers. Conclusion: If online learning is to be optimized, the needs of substance use professionals must be accommodated; however, online learning that meets the needs of substance use professionals does not always match the best evidence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • addiction
  • user-centered design
  • Workforce development


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