Thursday, 6 December 2012

VLEs, Medportal and #ukmeded

Just a quick note as I asked a few weeks ago to talk about Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) on the popular twitter chat #ukmeded which involves clinicians, students and even some of those responsible for running med school courses in various parts of the Uk. I am driving back from placement tonight to be back for my SJT tomorrow (eeek, and also another rant for another time) so I thought I'd pop some notes together on why I was so desperate to discuss this (read rant about).

In my humble opinion the Cambridge VLE is completely unfit for purpose. I tried taking some screen shots to show you why but as you'll discover from this post they were too complicated to make much sense! Lets discuss the things I'd want from a VLE and why I think the Cambridge one fails on many of them.

1) A clear and informative front page
Here is my one screen shot:
No I have no idea where to start either.

2) My timetables, Placement information, where to go and when to find accomodation keys/my ward/the clinic I'm scheduled for, who I need to talk to locally on placement for this sort of info

Cambridge's system:
Overall placements for the year often are released very late and onto an entirely different university website. They are also on our front page of the VLE but not as an overview of your year (I even had trouble finding out when my holidays were at first!). Each placement in the Stage tab has a set of dates next to it these form a drop down list, click on the right dates and you will see who you are going on placement with. Don't know the right dates? Go to a different website.

Placement info/ joining instructions: Start at home page go >general-> general curriculum info-> Joining instructions->Hospital Info->Pick correct hospital->AHA! Varying levels of info depending on regional admin ( I had to play with VLE to work out how to find this again!)

Timetables: In base hospital- then perhaps if you click on the placement (From stage tab on homepage) and then on timetables if it is available  there might be a timetable of clinics (and whether there are allocated or not) and any teaching there is available. Or there might not be.
Or if you are on our Stage 2 Neurology, Rheumatology and Orthopaedics 6 week rotation there will be 16 separate documents with this sort of info which you must integrate and make sure you get everything necessary signed off and taught with no clashes either within your timetable or with other students. Confusing.
In regional: Rely on emails from local admin staff/word of mouth there will be only timetables for Addies students on the VLE.
Communication skills sessions: Curricular themes tab-> communication skills->pick appropriate stage resources tab lots of resources, no indication of when I might have any sessions though...

3) Information about assessments and coursework clearly labelled with dates due and what is expected of me, emails to notify me of such coursework, maybe a list of the things I need to do each term/ each placement

Cambridge system:
If I go to my stage "hub" and click on the assessment tab it appears to be empty- not even any info about finals. There are tabs about Simulator session but no timetable of when my session might be, and about L-SSC's. No mention of the 2 palliative care essays, the team work reflective portfolio piece I was emailed about the other day or the prescribing exam. Last year we only heard by word of mouth about a reflective portfolio piece we had to complete before going on elective on our experience across the year a few weeks before elective.

If I go to general tab on the home page, then to general curriculum info then to assessments and examinations there is the info about finals. Shame thought I didn't have any :(

Those "assignments" you can see on the screen shot- some of them are proper coursework I must electronically submit but most of them are feedback forms.

4) Resources like lecture notes, podcasts, reading lists etc uploaded promptly and to a location I have a hope in hell in finding. Possibly even all downloadable for when on placement with no internet

Random e.g. Stage 2 Paeds resources, Go Stage 2 tab-> Growth and development placement->
?Integrated teaching tab (nope try again)
-> Related course Paeds-> handouts and documents Aha! There are some of them as documents.
Or Home-> Speciality tab-> Paeds-> handouts and documents
This is one of the better options. I chose it really randomly.
Podcasts are NOT downloadable, nor watchable on hospital library comps. Hmm.

5) A way to find all of the above, quickly and intuitively with no need for wading through the site clicking randomly on links e.g. logical placement of above, a search box

Random illogical inclusion and placement of above
No search box

6) Listening and responding to feedback
Not really a website issue more of a med school issue. Feedback over many years about the Cambridge VLE led them to revamp it for a large sum of money from its previous incarnation as ERweb in my 4th year. ERweb had many of the above issues and was less than pretty but had the odd but useful system of page numbers which when one person found something would lead the rest of us to it directly. The VLE is prettier no doubt. One consistent piece of feedback both before and after the revamp was the need for a search function on the website and that was all it would take to transform the system. No-one has any idea why they didn't ask for this in their expensive revamp. They continue to defend its absence by stating how difficult it would be to add one.

Apparently the VLE we have in Cam is one of the best in the country and many other med schools would love to have one like ours. We are very dubious.

Tell me, what do you want from a VLE and how does the VLE you use provide it and the above? Is it just us who are so frustrated by the system?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for getting us started last night. You've raised many interesting points that are common across medical schools and across VLEs. But we can work together to make things better.

    Anne Marie