• Offline and online recording of clinical placement activities across an entire medical programme at the University of Liverpool

    by John Couperthwaite


Offline and online recording of clinical placement activities across an entire medical programme at the University of Liverpool

~ Customer Stories ~

AUGUST 25th 2016· by John Couperthwaite


We spoke to Paul Duvall, part of the University of Liverpool's Medical School, on how and why they are using PebblePad for their MBChB programme. 

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Why did you consider using PebblePad for the MBChB programme the University of Liverpool?

Following a curriculum review in 2014, an early priority was to implement new technological solutions to transform the delivery of the programme; this included an identified need for an electronic portfolio. This was not simply about replacing previous activities with technology, but was focused around several clear aspirations for the portfolio:

  1. To increase both the quantity and quality of student feedback, particularly for clinical placements;
  2. To prepare students for future career - ideally carrying the portfolio with them;
  3. To produce reflective practitioners, as this is a key criteria from the GMC for doctors to be reflective and learn from mistakes; and
  4. To improve the monitoring of what students are doing on placement; an electronic portfolio would remove the potential for having fabricated placement records and provide real-time data.

My decision was partially determined by an urgency to introduce a solution for 900 students within three months. I ruled out open source solutions because of the need to bring in supplementary support in terms of developers and a number of the other solutions specifically geared towards medical education raised concerns about long-term sustainability – especially surrounding data storage and offline capability. PebblePad gave me the flexibility and the control I could introduce that would work in medicine: the Workbooks would help us meet the GMC requirements; and I saw how, over time, we would be able to introduce more learner-centred approaches. 

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Tell us about some of your achievments using PebblePad?

Initial focus was almost entirely on supporting clinical placement activity – therefore the solution was focused on allowing students to record what they were doing and for us to monitor as easily as possible. The PebblePad workbook allowed us to build a structure around clinical activity (i.e. histories and examination, clinical skills etc.) with reasonable numbers for what each student was expected to deliver against each (with an aspiration for excellence). We could not have achieved this before PebblePad.

 The key thing in making this work was an offline solution. Prior to working with the PebblePad team to develop our offline offering we were using a free Adobe Reader App.

Workbooks are used to collect clinical assessment information on each of the five years of the medical programme

We now have a fantastic solution with PebblePad. We use the PebblePad App, PebblePocket and customised forms (developed in partnership with the PebblePad Dev Team) so that students can record a range of clinical activity on their mobile (even when they are offline since internet acesss can be a huge limitation in NHS environments) and clinicians can add a digital signature on the mobile screen to verify the activity. The activity is then locked as a read only activity (so students cannot change the record) and the student can add it to their PebblePad when they next have an internet connection. The process offers flexible offline working and matches our processes very well. Over 1200 students and 300 staff are using the system and PebblePad has touch points across the entire curriculum. It’s working so well we’re seeing growth by positive word of mouth and based on experience I know how important it is to have a robust and reliable technology in place. I feel much more confident to be able to expand the current offering because people trust the PebblePad solution.

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What do you see as being the most significant benefits in bringing PebblePad for institutions/students/the wider world?

Having one consistent system cannot be underestimated. Any barrier you put in place will increase the likelihood of failure. So having a consistent solution like PebblePad in place is vital. PebblePad is also helping us prepare the medics for a world where quality assurance and evidencing competency is going to become increasingly dominant.

In terms of staff benefit, one of the big things is efficiency in administration. If the admin burden is too high in this type of implementation it makes delivery impossible because the curriculum/educational ideal only works in theory. PebblePad also provides the flexibility in design to allow staff to try new ways of working. So, overall, we’ve seen significant benefit both in terms of administration efficiency and flexibility in design, which the team really appreciates.

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Finally, what is the long-term vision for the MBChB programme at the University and where does PebblePad

It would be advantageous to have a system in place to support for pre-application students, giving them early access to the curriculum and use of the portfolio. Managing those transitions and the continuum of provision is a critical feature of our future plans in the curriculum. Also, the free PebblePad alumni accounts provide continued access to their portfolio into the workplace and this is something that NHS employers would greatly appreciate. I can see how PebblePad could support this entire journey.

Read more about transforming curriculum-wide assessment in medical education by downloading our white paper.

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An experienced learning technologist, John has worked in higher education for nearly 20 years, leading the implementation and delivery of learning solutions, and now has the pleasure of working with many dedicated practitioners of PebblePad across the UK. John is an active sailor, singer, school governor, and proud dad to two lovely children.