The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to providing education for healthcare professionals. With restrictions in place, PEPA teams were forced to cancel in-person workshops across the country. Palliative care education was a high priority during COVID as many requests were coming in, so PEPA quickly moved to support workshops that could be delivered online and in virtual formats.
The first task was for team members to undertake several different short courses to upskill in best practice approaches to online learning. The importance of promoting learner engagement was strongly evident. This led us to adopt an active-learning, team-based approach to restructuring PEPA workshop content for online delivery. Active learning refers to strategies that involve participants in the learning experience. Team-based or collaborative learning is an approach that involves groups of learners working together to solve a problem or complete a task; learning occurs through active engagement with peers and facilitators.
Adapting PEPA workshop content for online delivery involved the following aspects:
- Learning Guides: a range of PEPA Learning Guides were developed based on the content areas covered in PEPA workshops. These guides are used to support workshop learning as they provide information summaries and links to detailed content and further resources.
- Presentations: the information included in workshop presentations was simplified to a point-form style, allowing for greater discussion and application of content during workshops. Participants are encouraged to access a PEPA Learning Guide for more detailed content before and/or after the workshop. This enables a flipped-classroom approach to be used, where learners are introduced to content ahead of the workshop session, and the collaborative session can then be focused on discussion, clarification, and application of content.
- Supporting Presenters: PEPA Managers and specialist presenters needed to become familiar with the use of videoconferencing platforms for workshop sessions, and to have back-up plans for the inevitable technological hiccups. We ran practice sessions to demonstrate how to present content, facilitate learning activities (group and individual) and ways to encourage interaction. We also prepared tip sheets with detailed instructions on how to use the various features of commonly used platforms. Detailed facilitator guides were developed for all workshop sessions to incorporate instructions for presentation in both physical and virtual contexts.
- Resources: incorporating active learning strategies into workshop sessions required the use of other platforms in addition to those used for videoconferencing. We set up a range of quizzes and activity sheets (used to check knowledge and collate group responses to learning tasks) using MS Forms. We also used the digital collaboration platform, Padlet to provide Resource Directories (refer to Figure 1); collations of the resources used for each workshop session (eg, videos, documents, images, website links). Padlet walls were also set up to enable learners to introduce themselves, facilitate networking, and engage in collaborative learning activities.
Figure 1: Example of Padlet
The response to online workshops has been very encouraging with sessions fully booked in record time. Learners have appreciated the flexibility of being able to attend several shorter sessions rather than a whole day, as well as being able to participate from home or work, and to have the flexibility to access workshops in other jurisdictions that were more convenient for them. Based on the success of these early experiences, many PEPA jurisdictions will continue to offer a mixture of virtual and in-person workshops. This will support our aim of enhancing the capacity of the healthcare workforce to deliver quality palliative care to people affected by life-limiting illness.
Steph Dickinson, Learning and Development Coordinator - Palliative Care Education and Training Collaborative, Cancer and Palliative Care Outcomes Centre, Faculty of Health at Queensland University of Technology
Sharon Wetzig, Learning and Development Coordinator - Palliative Care Education and Training Collaborative, Cancer and Palliative Care Outcomes Centre, Faculty of Health at Queensland University of Technology