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How IT can assist in the teaching and learning of clinical skills

As with so many areas of teaching and learning, there has been a huge explosion in the availability of IT resources that can be used to help teach clinical skills. However, examination skills (and to a lesser extent procedural skills) are still heavily influenced by local ‘experts’ who doggedly cling on to their own local variation on the way to perform given skills. While, in the main, this local variation is to be celebrated, it does lead to multiple, expensive and time-consuming reinventions of the wheel. With so many freely available web-based resources, a good starting point is to quality assure the best of these sites (an exercise that many large institutions are beginning to attempt) and make recommendations to your trainees and students as you would with course books.

 You may wish to consider the following issues when assessing websites.

  • Accessibility – can your students easily access a site within your training facility (hospital, clinic or surgery), using local IT resources (e.g. the libraries), in their homes and on other more distant sites (e.g. associate hospitals and training facilities)? It may be useful to bookmark these sites on the computers within skills centre and self-directed learning areas, and reference them in course literature.
  • Suitability – sites that may be useful for postgraduate trainees may be totally unsuitable for novice clinicians and vice versa. Asking trainees and students to help out in this review is very useful and gives good insight into their learning needs.
  • Local variation – it may be that your own teaching or that of your institution varies slightly from that on the recommended sites. It is worth highlighting the major areas of difference and offering explanations around them. Teaching, self-directed learning and assessment materials need to allow for these slight variations and not become so dogmatic as to exclude them. Inexperienced clinicians find these grey areas very hard to deal with, but it is beneficial that they see lots of different clinical models and variants on the web, just as they will do in real life.

Ensuring core materials are accessible to teachers and learners alike is key to their use. All UK medical schools now have their own intranet facilities with networked and virtual learning environments. Eventually these will be easily accessible, providing excellent communications and teaching and learning support for all. However, until this is the norm, core teaching and learning materials may still be required on DVD or similar formats for associate hospitals and teaching surgeries.

With increasing use of video and voice files in everyday life, lectures and learning materials are increasingly being provided to download onto portable media players such as the iPod. Sharing of such resources nationally and internationally will negate the need to produce similar materials in local training facilities.

See Further reading section for more examples of what the world-wide web can offer.


Using IT in the teaching and learning of clinical skills

  • Before you reinvent the wheel (again), check out the vast range of resources already on the world-wide web
  • Recommend ‘good’ sites in course literature
  • Quality assure these sites, with your critique available to guide the learners
  • Ask trainees to critique the sites (and make other recommendations)
  • Ensure any recommended web-based learning resources are accessible to learners on local, distant and domestic access
  • Most large institutions have excellent learning technologists and IT support to help you produce learning resources
  • Get involved – with minimal training and advice, most teachers should be able to set up simple and effective learning resources on most virtual and networked learning environments


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