Designing a blended learning program to improve student learning outcomes and their confident transition to practice

Traditional medical curriculum focuses on content and the acquisition of clinical knowledge, technical skills and successful performance in the examination setting (low level memorisable knowledge). However this does not formally translate in developing the attributes and skills required to perform in a demanding work environment that is potentially in a state of flux. There is limited formal training for students to develop the non-technical skills to function with ambiguity and complexity, and to develop the process attributes that involve being able to work with others, think creatively, self-regulate and solve complex problems.

Much has been made of producing ‘work ready graduates’ and many medical schools and universities are reforming curriculum to provide enhanced learning however despite these reforms medical students are still experiencing anxiety and consider themselves not confident in their transition from university to the work environment. This transition to practice challenge is not unique to medicine, also occurring in other sectors.

Since 2014, the clinical teaching team at Univerity of Queensland Rural Clinical School (RCS) in Toowoomba have been developing an educational program to prepare students for the workplace. This program aligns with the RCS’s ‘Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy’ which aims to improve the delivery of learning and assessment through the creation of blended learning solutions that can be accessed in geographically distributed/dispersed learning environments.

The program is based on blended learning pedagogy that generates active learning and student engagement. It features a combination of online case based scenarios, face to face role play activities, reflective small group discussions and digital assessment.

The implementation of active learning strategies throughout all components of the blended program ensures that students are continually practising what they would do in a real world context, as well as critically analysing and reflecting on their learning and how this translates to the work environment.

The most significant outcome of this program will be its effect on the lives of the doctors who can begin their independent professional careers with the skills and confidence they need to meet the non-medical challenges of internship. It is expected that the improved workplace skills will lead to positive workplace experience and ultimately have a positive impact on their care of patients.