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Open Access Research article

Introducing an online community into a clinical education setting: a pilot study of student and staff engagement and outcomes using blended learning

Kathleen Gray* and Jacinta Tobin

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-6

Published: 26 January 2010

Abstract

Background

There are growing reasons to use both information and communication functions of learning technologies as part of clinical education, but the literature offers few accounts of such implementations or evaluations of their impact. This paper details the process of implementing a blend of online and face-to-face learning and teaching in a clinical education setting and it reports on the educational impact of this innovation.

Methods

This study designed an online community to complement a series of on-site workshops and monitored its use over a semester. Quantitative and qualitative data recording 43 final-year medical students' and 13 clinical educators' experiences with this blended approach to learning and teaching were analysed using access, adoption and quality criteria as measures of impact.

Results

The introduction of the online community produced high student ratings of the quality of learning and teaching and it produced student academic results that were equivalent to those from face-to-face-only learning and teaching. Staff had mixed views about using blended learning.

Conclusions

Projects such as this take skilled effort and time. Strong incentives are required to encourage clinical staff and students to use a new mode of communication. A more synchronous or multi-channel communication feedback system might stimulate increased adoption. Cultural change in clinical teaching is also required before clinical education can benefit more widely from initiatives such as this.