PRA’s Program Areas are on the cutting edge of innovation in providing technical assistance and training in the behavioral health, homelessness, and criminal justice fields. One of our projects, the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance (TA) Center created a unique training model for providers that increases access to Social Security disability benefits for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

The SOAR Online Course integrates a practice SSI/SSDI application into the comprehensive curriculum, the first of its kind in public health online trainings. This practice case is reviewed by experts at the SOAR TA Center and each trainee receives individualized feedback. The course is free and trainees may proceed through the course at their own pace or participate in a cohort of other trainees in their region, facilitated by state and local SOAR Leaders who use a training cohort model developed by PRA and the SOAR TA Center.

In May 2016, Frontiers in Public Health published an evaluation of the SOAR online training model, which assessed course usage from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015.

Key findings from the evaluation:

  1. Trainees highly valued the SSI/SSDI practice case and the comprehensive feedback provided from experts at the SOAR TA Center
    • After completing the SOAR Online Course, 94% of survey respondents agreed with the statement, “I feel more confident about assisting with an actual SSI/SSDI application having completed the practice case.”
    • The top two “most liked” features about the course in the survey were the practice case component and the comprehensive information provided in the training.
  1. Support from local SOAR Leaders was a critical factor in successful course completion
    • Highest rates of successful course completion were found in areas that have local SOAR Leaders who have attended a SOAR Leadership Academy, showing the value of facilitated guidance through the course.
    • Trainees in a cohort participate in weekly check-in calls and support from local SOAR Leaders, which helps to reduce attrition and increase successful outcomes.
  1. Trainees who used the SOAR Online Course were more likely to enter cases into the SOAR Online Application Tracking (OAT) system than those who attended in-person trainings
    • While this didn’t capture those using other data tracking systems, for those using OAT we found that 42% of trainees from the SOAR Online Course completed at least one application post-training (with a 71% approval rate!).
    • In a previous evaluation of SOAR, we found that only 13% of trainees from the in-person training model ever went on to file an application, so the SOAR Online Course is time well spent!

The evaluation also addressed additional critical success factors when developing online training models for the social service sector. We invite you to take a look at the SOAR Online Course and contact the SOAR TA Center with any questions!