Implementation and evaluation of an electronic portfolio to support undergraduate medicine
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Implementation and evaluation of an electronic portfolio to support undergraduate medicine. Simon Cotterill, Tony McDonald, Geoff Hammond, Philip Bradley School of Medical Education Development University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Undergraduate Medicine at Newcastle - The MBBS Programme.

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Implementation and evaluation of an electronic portfolio to support undergraduate medicine

Simon Cotterill, Tony McDonald, Geoff Hammond, Philip Bradley

School of Medical Education Development

University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


Undergraduate Medicine at Newcastle support undergraduate medicine

- The MBBS Programme

  • Regional medical school

    • 1,400 students

    • 1,600 contributing staff

    • Multiple points of entry:

      • Standard 5 year programme

      • Accelerated (4 year) programme

      • Joint programme with Durham

  • Outcomes based Curriculum


Managed Environments for support undergraduate medicinePortfolio-based Reflective Learning.Integrated Support for Evidencing Outcomes. 

  • An FDTL-4 project:

    • Newcastle University (lead site)

    • Leeds University

    • Sheffield University

    • Dundee University (for consultancy)

  • Developing Web based portfolios to support reflective approaches for evidencing the attainment of programme outcomes in undergraduate Medicine.

  • Closely integrated with on-line curricula and study guides to become an integral component of managed learning environments for Medicine.

  • Project funded by


    Development and piloting in 2003 4
    Development and Piloting in 2003/4 support undergraduate medicine

    • ‘Generic’ ePortfolio framework

    • Generic tools (CV, Meetings recorder etc) + Context-Specific tools

    • ePortfolio is customised by course and year-group

    • Stand-alone embedded within a VLE

    • MBBS Phase I ePortfolio

    • Learning Diary, Meetings with Personal Tutors, CV, SWOT

    • Learning Outcomes, Log of Family and Patient visits

    • Non-mandatory, choice of paper or online for diary, meetings & log

    • Year 4 Student Selected Components (SSCs)

    • Learning Outcomes and Action Plan

    • Mandatory for 1 of the students’ 3 SSCs

    • Content not assessed/graded (could inform borderline cases)


    Learning Diary and Planning Tool support undergraduate medicine


    Recording Meetings with Personal Tutors support undergraduate medicine


    CV support undergraduate medicine


    Year 4 SSC Portfolio: Action Plan support undergraduate medicine


    Year 4 SSC Portfolio: Action Plan support undergraduate medicine


    Research and Evaluation Studies support undergraduate medicine*Preliminary Findings*


    • Ethical approval / informed consent

    • Focus groups - facilitated by a 4th year student (Sean Sarma)

    • Questionnaires - based on findings of the focus groups (on-going)

    • Key issues from the focus groups

      • Generally well received but what motivation ?

        • not assessed

        • not viewed by tutors (staff interface completed later)

    • Need better clarity of purpose

    • Wanted a more quirky / fun design !

    • Learning diary - useful at first, less so over time

    • Good to browse the Learning Outcomes


    • Ethical approval / informed consent

    • Questionnaires (before and after using the ePortfolio)

      • change in awareness of intended learning outcomes ?

      • factors influencing use of the ePortfolio

      • attitudes and perceptions of using the ePortfolio

      • student perception of impact of using the ePortfolio

      • evaluation of technical features and ‘usability’

  • 186 students completed the portfolio (~100% compliance)

  • 105 questionnaires completed (56% of cohort) at 30/06/2004


    • Outcomes recorded and time to complete: reflective learning in stage 4 medical students during their student selected components.

      • median number of learning outcomes: 5

      • median number of ePortfolio sessions: 6

      • median time taken to complete ePortfolio: 3 hours (IQR 2-4 hours)

    • Locations of computers used:

      • 77% used computers at the University

      • 59% used computers at home

      • 41% used computers on location at the SSC

    • Usability:

      • 67% found the ePortfolio easy to navigate

      • 80% found the online instructions easy to understand

      • 79% thought that the LO action plan was quite intuitive

      • 74% thought that the submission process was easy to understand


    Evaluation positive
    Evaluation - positive reflective learning in stage 4 medical students during their student selected components.

    • “It encouraged me to really give thought to what I wanted to achieve during the option, which was especially useful as this was my first option. As a result of the portfolio I think I got much more out of the option than I would have otherwise.”

    • “It made me concentrate on creating aims at the start of the option and allowed me to plan the option with my supervisor in a defined way. Overall it made my learning for the option more organised and focused.”


    Evaluation negative
    Evaluation - negative reflective learning in stage 4 medical students during their student selected components.

    • “Most of the things I learned couldn't be 'measured/quantified' so I felt it was of little value to try and invent a way in which they could.”

    • “Access to computer as option took place in Barnard Castle, records may have been more detailed if completed straight after meetings etc.”


    Building the ePortfolio was a useful learning experience reflective learning in stage 4 medical students during their student selected components.

    80% thought it was

    a useful learning experience

    I feel that I have recorded good evidence that I have achieved specific

    learning outcomes from this option.

    83% felt they had recorded

    good evidence


    Having clearly defined intended learning outcomes influenced the way in which I approached the option

    72% felt that the LOs

    influenced their approach

    Building the ePortfolio gave me a sense of achievement

    62% felt a sense of achievement

    56% were proud of their portfolio


    The use of the ePortfolio facilitated the interaction between me and my supervisor

    90% discussed the plan with their supervisor. However, only 39% felt it facilitated their interaction with the supervisor

    At the end of the option I spent time considering what I had learned from this option.

    93% reflected on their learning

    after the option


    Key points raised in the open-ended questions between me and my supervisor

    • What did you most like about using the ePortfolio ?

      • facilitated organisation and planning (n=31)

      • usability (n=14)

      • sense of achievement (n=11)

      • encouraged reflection after the SSC (n=6)

    • What did you least like about using the ePortfolio ?

      • time consuming (n=13)

      • technical problems (n=10)

      • outcomes hard to define / measure (n=9)

      • repetitive (n=8)

    • What were the main barriers to using the ePortfolio ?

      • access to computers / Internet (n=20)

      • technical problems (n=11)


    Conclusions between me and my supervisor

    • ePortfolios implemented / piloted in 2003/4

    • Most students perceive these as beneficial

    • But unless assessed the motivation to complete is reduced

    • The ePortfolio is being piloted in other contexts

      • Dentistry

      • Biosciences

      • Contract Research Staff


    Further information: between me and my supervisorhttp://[email protected]


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