SAAHE 2016 conference

I usually post my notes after a conference but this year at SAAHE I mainly used Twitter to keep track of my thoughts during the sessions, which was great because we probably saw more activity on Twitter in PE than ever before. Here is the conference feed using the #saahe2016 hashtag.

Note : While it’s great that Twitter gives you the ability to embed a conference feed in a post like this, I always wonder what will happen when Twitter goes away?


Open online courses in health professionals education – A scoping review

I’ve been working with Stephen Maloney and Christian Osadnik at Monash University on a scoping review of open online courses in health professionals education, which we submitted to ER-WCPT. We’ve since changed the protocol to a systematic review (the main difference being the lack of critical appraisal in the scoping review) but I’ve left the protocol as is for this post. Here’s the abstract that was accepted for presentation at the conference in Liverpool later this year.

Despite increasing calls to integrate technology into health professions education, evidence to guide its effective implementation is lacking. Open online courses (OOCs) have emerged in the higher education space and may offer promise for health professions education. However, the uncritical nature of current discourse around OOCs means informed choices regarding the pedagogical value of this approach are difficult to make. The aim of this scoping review was to identify the current landscape of OOCs in health professions education, placing emphasis on issues regarding implementation and evaluation.

The study protocol followed the framework proposed by Arksey & O’Malley (2005). Electronic database searches were conducted in Ebscohost, PubMed, PloS One, PloS Medicine and Embase to identify publications from years 2008 – 2015. A comprehensive list of keywords and synonyms associated with allied health disciplines and “open online course” was used for searching. Grey literature was identified via Google Scholar. Eligibility criteria were applied independently by two study authors to determine study inclusion. Data were extracted using standardised templates and synthesised according to a framework of: economic value, pedagogical value, feasibility and acceptability, and measures of effectiveness.

From 104 citations, 33 articles were included in the review and were analysed using the following themes: feasibility and acceptability, effectiveness, economic value, and pedagogy. Most of the articles reviewed simply accepted OOCs as an inherent good in HPE, with few adopting a critical stance. This was especially evident when looking for evidence of effectiveness and economic value of OOCs. In addition, health professions educators have varying interpretations of the meaning of ‘open’ in OOCs, with few mentioning issues of licensing. Few of the articles described course design, and none reported on the use of learning theory to inform the design. In addition, there was almost no attempt by any of the authors to determine if any actual learning took place in the courses. There is an emerging acceptance of OOC in HPE, as seen by the increase in publications in this area in recent years. In general, findings were most often presented in the form of analytics that were gathered during participant engagement in the online environment.

There is a wide variety of interpretations among health professions educators on the meanings of “open” in the context of OOCs, with very few articles making any reference to the licensing issues inherent in the method. In addition, the lack of theoretical framework underpinning the OOCs considered in this review highlights significant pedagogical weaknesses limiting their application to the evidence-based clinical education setting. Most authors in this area seem to regard OOCs as having economic and pedogogical value, but few provide evidence to support the claim.

Health professions educators who want to integrate OOCs in their curricula should be wary of informing their decisions with the current research in the domain. We suggest that there is a need for more rigorous research into the use of OOC in HPE and recommend that educators using this approach pay particular attention to the effectiveness and pedagogical impact of OOCs.

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Digital literacy survey: Outcome of reliability testing

Earlier this year we started the International Ethics Project, a collaboration between physiotherapy departments from several countries who intend offering an online course in professional ethics to their undergraduate students. You can read more about the project here.

In June we started the process of developing a questionnaire that we can use to establish some baseline data on students’ levels of digital literacy. It’s taken a bit longer than expected but we’ve finally managed to complete the reliability testing of the questionnaire as part of a pilot study. Before we can begin planning the module and how it will be implemented we need to get a better understanding of how our population – drawn as they are from several countries from around the world – uses digital tools in the context of their learning practices. The results of the reliability study showed that most of the survey items had Kappa values between 0.5 – 0.6 (indicating moderate agreement); 0.7 – 0.8 (indicating strong agreement); or >0.8 (indicating almost perfect agreement). See this post on the project blog for more details on how the reliability testing was conducted.

Now that we have conducted quite a rigorous piloting of the questionnaire, we hope that this questionnaire might be useful for other health professional educators who are considering the use of digital tools in their classrooms. To this end we would like to report the results of this pilot, along with some preliminary results, at the ER-WCPT conference on 11-12 November, 2016 in Liverpool. We will therefore be submitting an abstract for the conference in the coming months.

Design principles for blended learning environments: a presentation

I’m going to be at the 2015 SAAHE conference for the next couple of days, which is being held in association with The Network: Towards Unity for Health. Yesterday I gave a workshop on Setting up and running an open online course, as well as a presentation on developing Design principles for blended learning environments. These principles are the outcomes of my PhD project, as well as further studies that I’ve done in the area. Here are the slides for the presentation.

Emerging Technologies and Authentic Learning in Vocational Higher Education conference

Last week I attended the Emerging Technologies and Authentic Learning in Vocational Higher Education conference at the UCT Graduate School of Business, which had a pretty impressive lineup of keynote speakers:

The general theme of the conference was the idea of “learning and play”, with Professor Dick N’gambi opening the event with the following statement: “The creative adult is the child who survived”, referring to the fact that the formal educational system doesn’t encourage innovation and creativity. How do we prepare students for a world that we can’t predict, unless we encourage within them an attitude of exploration and discovery.

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The conference was linked to a Special Issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology, to which I’ve submitted the following paper: Rowe – Developing graduate attributes in an open online course (note that this is currently under review). Here are my slides from the workshop I ran on setting up and running an open online course:

…and here is the Twitter feed for the event.


WCPT course: Creating and running an open online course

I’m in Singapore for the 2015 World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress, which is the largest gathering of physiotherapists in the world. I’ve never been to a WCPT Congress before, so I’ve really been looking forward to this for a while now.

Tomorrow I’m presenting a half day course with Tony and Rachael Lowe from Physiopedia, called “Creating open online courses“. We’re going to try and figure out, together with participants, if there’s a place for these kinds of online (or blended) courses in formal physiotherapy education. I believe that it was one of the first courses to sell out at the conference, so there’s definitely an interest in the topic.

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We’ve set up our workshop so that the major concepts we’d like to cover are presented, not as PowerPoint slides but as an online course that anyone can work through (see image below). We included our topics, learning outcomes, content overviews and resources on the wiki at Physiopedia, as well as set up a shared online workspace in Google Drive. Course participants will work through the topics in small groups, using the topics in the online course as inputs for discussion, and then collaboratively document what they are thinking and learning during the course. We will act as facilitators and guides, presenting the initial concepts, adding a few thoughts from our own experiences and then facilitating group discussions. We thought that this might be an interesting approach (for this topic in particular) where instead of participants simply being introduced to the concepts involved in open online learning, they actually work in that space themselves.

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It’s a bit of an experiment so we’d really like to hear comments and feedback, not only from course participants but anyone else at the Congress who thinks that this might be a useful way to run future workshops. The hashtag for the workshop is #wcptooc, so please feel free to send a comment or question, whether you’re signed up for the course or not. We’d love to be able to incorporate thoughts and ideas from people who aren’t in the room.

On a related but separate note, part of the reason for me being here is also a funded research visit to try and set up meetings with potential collaborators for our International Ethics Project. If you’re interested in collaborating on an international research project that aims to develop and run a course in professional ethics across multiple institutions, I’d love to hear from you (there’s a Contact page on the site).

Using the web to empower agents of change: Presentation at The Network – TUFH conference

These are the slides from the presentation I gave at The Network: Towards Unity for Health conference in Fortaleza, Brazil (2014).

The talk looked at how we’re trying to prepare health professional students for an increasingly complex health system, but we’re still using teaching methods that originated centuries ago. I ask questions about how we can change teaching practices to take into account the characteristics we expect of our graduates. I discussed the importance of taking a critical stance towards the implementation of technological solutions, and to be careful of making assumptions about the use of technology to solve all problems.