Wednesday, September 13, 2006

E-Learning in Practice Conference - Bristol

Evidence in Practice conference at UBHT, Bristol

Yesterday I attended an interesting conference on elearning in the National Health Service (NHS), held at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Education Centre.

The first keynote presentation was given by Prof Sally Glen (new Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton & editor of ) and Maggie Nicol, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Queen Mary University of London and City University London & Barts & The London considering Elearning and the NHS: Working with academic partners.

Sally opened by comparing the drivers for the increased use of elearning in the NHS and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and concluded that they are very similar. An overview of the advantages and disadvantages of elearning followed with consideration of some of the principles which surround them. Maggie then followed with consideration of some of the practical issues, including; intellectual property rights, firewalls, delivery mechanisms, accreditation, funding, private partners and sponsors using examples from her development of a simulation for infusion devises training.

The next speaker was Nicki Davis a junior doctor from United Bristol Healthcare Trust , who described "A day in the life of an elearner" based on focus groups held with junior doctors in the trust. The results were similar to other similar studies with doctors and other health professionals, suggesting that there are issues of access, time and motivation for the use of elearning and pleading for developers to take the needs of the users into account.

Accessing Core Learning? Let us give you a CLU was the next presentation from June Lancaster, Director of the NHS Core Learning Unit, which grew from the ashes of the NHS university and provides some statutory and mandatory training materials and is developing a common induction programme for the NHS. She highlighted issues surrounding quality and consistency and briefly mentioned work on making the learners record link with the NHS Electronic Staff Record (ESR) when it has been built. Their courses are available from however this requires users to say which Strategic Health authority and trust they work for therefore registration for those in higher education etc is difficult/impossible.

This was followed by a short "comfort break" however no coffee was made available!!

The first session after the break was by Veronica Vernon, from Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She described the work of the SOLSTICE CETL and demonstrated the use of podcasting in a course for student nurses about the patients journey following diagnosis with breast cancer. Particular issues which were highlighted included the place in the curriculum (this component is not compulsory or assessed) and the partnership models of working between academics, clinicians and technologists. The key role of the patient experience was put across with excerpts from patient interviews.

Annmaria MacRury, from NHS Quality Improvement Scotland in conjunction with NHS Education for Scotland then described work she is undertaking for e-learning the ABC of clinical governance in Scotland. The development issues and problems she described were similar to a range of similar projects.

The final session of the morning was Elearning and the NHS: The strategic imperative by John Bewick, (NHS South West) who talked about some of the strategic directions for the NHS including globalisation, social and organisational changes and left the audience the challenge of considering the role of elearning in achieving these.

A limited lunch was then provided but it did provide an opportunity to visit the exhibitors stands, read the posters and catch up with friends and colleagues from around the country about their current projects.

After lunch there were four parallel sessions. As I was chairing the session on E-learning at the leading edge, I was not able to attend the others and can only report on those in my session:

NHS distance learning shouldn't cost an arm and a leg by Garfield Lucas(of Garfnet) & Roz Tritton Wessex Deanery & Oxford Deanery, was really a passionate argument for the use of open source tools in healthcare education with examples from the DEOSS site for dental vocational trainers including a dummy portfolio. The lively question and answer session triggered debates about security and support costs for using this sort of software.

Louise Terry and colleagues from South Bank University then described the research they had carried out into the use of video conferencing with nursing and healthcare management students taking an ethics course. Practical and pedagogical issues were discussed and the differences between the students in the UK and US highlighted. Technical issues about firewalls had meant the use of a private supplier and specialist equipment had meant increased costs which, in the final analysis, had probably not provided value for money. Some of the comments about the characteristics of the learners and their views of synchronous and asynchronous communication methods were particularly interesting.

Malcolm McClean a GP tutor from Horsham and Chanctonbury PCT then demonstrated SELF-online (although the URL didn't work when I tried it) as a good example of esignposting to learning in primary care. The site provide links to events and resources which can be used by primary care staff individually and as a groups for their own personal and professional development, and enables them to rate the resources for others.

The final presentation in this session was another evangelist this time Paul Norrish from East Devon PCT who showed (& passed around) a Tablet PC (SLATE) which he has purchased for Health and safety and Food Handling training for his trust. He had found the portability and accessibility helped to overcome problems reaching some staff who have traditionally been underserved by educational provision and suggested this fun and userfriendly approach provided a revolution for elearning.

The final plenary presentations aimed to bring together some of the current and future issues which had been identified during the day. Dr Luisa Dillner, from the BMJ Publishing Group, considered some of the issues in working with commercial partners using examples from BMJ Learning, including highlighting the expertise and resources which commercial elearning providers can bring. She particularly highlighted the use of high quality (but not as expensive as you might think) video and other multimedia in the new foundation pilot site for medical students and considered some potential future developments.

Phil Candy of NHS Connecting for Health then gave a presentation entitled Elearning and the NHS: Exciting times ahead, which mirrored many of the issues I heard him talking about in Edinburgh at the ALT-C conference last week. He touched on the global context and slow uptake of elearning in the NHS suggesting it is about 10 years behind higher education in this field. He referred to a presentation by Scott Walter "Born Digital" and his own book "Linking thinking - Self-directed learning in the digital age" in identifying the direction of travel and potential future developments including a new "National Alliance for Elearning in Health".

Prior to the conference delegates were invited to submit Frequently Unanswered Questions - many of which are still outstanding & are worthy of further discussion.

The presentations will be made available next week at: The Evidence in Practice UBHT web site

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  • Nicely blogged Rod! And you got it up there so quickly too! Very impressive stuff!

    The issue raised regarding security actually had nothing to do with Open Source Software per se. The comment related to how we had configured our server, i.e. as a "HTTP" rather than "HTTPS".

    We are constantly reviewing security threats and we are setting up a secure part of the server using an SSL certificate in the next week or so. This will be used for accessing data which may be considered sensitive.

    Like many in the open source community, my colleagues and I regard security as something one should engage with on a permanent basis rather than regard as a once-and-for-all, fix-and-forget phenomenon.

    Very best wishes, Garf

    By Blogger Mr.Goose, at 3:31 pm  

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