Another step forward for the UoL-UHS (Pakistan) partnership

The University of Liverpool (UoL) has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Health Sciences (UHS) in Lahore, Pakistan, to enhance the provision of medical education throughout the Punjab (population 80m). UHS was recently declared by the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan to be the No 1 public sector medical university in Pakistan.

Janet Strivens and Ian Willis of CLL have just returned from running courses for UHS on practice and theory of teaching. The MoU has provided the basis for a developing partnership that is currently receiving funding from the British Council under its International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education (INSPIRE). So far we have reached agreement for UHS to send up to 10 funded PhDs per annum to UoL as well as initiating a Knowledge Exchange project supported by Dr Milla Shah of the University’s Business Gateway team.
This visit was focussed on delivering a pilot programme “Introduction to Teaching for New Medical Educators”. Essentially, it is a learning teaching and assessment course derived from programmes offered by the Educational Development Division here at UoL. The aim is that this will become a mandatory programme for all new staff in UHS’ affiliate medical and dental colleges throughout the Punjab.

UHS acts as an examination centre for approximately 30 colleges; that’s most of the medical institutions in the province, and means that UHS has a real influence over the quality of medical education. Whilst we don’t know the exact number of staff who might take the programme it will clearly be a significant number each year.

One of our first tasks is to train experienced Pakistani medical educators to take over the running and assessment of the programme so that it becomes a sustainable and locally owned undertaking. Fortunately, we were able to involve some excellent ‘trainers’ from our connections formed during earlier visits. This latest visit involved actually delivering the first stage of the programme and ironing out its quirks, plus sharing the content and philosophy with the trainers at the same time. Even though that entailed quite a bit of organising, our Pakistani colleagues, class and trainers, are a pleasure to work with; so it’s great to be engaged with people who are keen to learn and contribute to changing their educational culture.

It looks like we are well underway on this project, with some of the trainers ready to run this first stage of the programme in their own institutions. One college has asked us to run a one day workshop for all their staff and as many students as possible; up to 600 people we believe. That will be fun if it comes off!

In parallel, we have continued discussions and market investigations regarding a proposed Masters in Medical Education to be developed as a UHS-UoL Joint Award. This is an altogether more rigorous enterprise, but so far the signs are promising.

To add a little variety, we ‘popped’ up to Islamabad for the weekend to present at the Association for Excellence in Medical Education conference. Popped is a bit of an understatement, it’s a 4½ – 5hr journey each way through the Punjab, covering some of the most productive land in the country. It’s based on an extensive canal system for irrigation put in place during the Raj and still being skilfully maintained and operated. The conference was the inaugural event for the Association for Excellence in Medial Education and attracted speakers from UK, USA, Saudi, Oman and Australia. It was really well organised and allowed us to get a sense of national developments in medical education, a key priority of the Pakistani Medical & Dental Council.

As an interesting aside, the conference was held in the Pakistan-China Friendship Centre, a superbly equipped facility and billed as a symbol of their “everlasting friendship”. Overall, we’re really pleased to have furthered our ties with colleagues at UHS and to have delivered some tangible outcomes (plus the food and hospitality are exemplary 🙂 ).

Ian Willis & Janet Strivens

Poster Day Online – presenting research in an Online environment

Presenting work online is increasingly used to bring together geographically dispersed researchers, with opportunities to present research to a wider audience than is normally possible. Events are cheaper through avoiding travel time and expenses, but how useful are these opportunities for online networking?

Poster Day Online has been developed for off-site research students as an alternative to the Poster Day provided on the Liverpool campus. The online participants are a diverse group based around the world including mainland Europe, XJTLU, Malawi and more distant parts of the UK. The group also includes students undertaking fieldwork and those at conferences on the date of Poster Day. Our online event aims to offer a closely equivalent experience to that on Campus, as well as allowing these students to fulfil the “Poster Day attendance requirement” for their degree.

Inevitably there are large differences between the two events. With a disparate audience working across time-zones, the online event cannot have the “buzz” of real-time conversations. We allow three weeks for Poster Day online so that viewers can read posters at their leisure, in their preferred environment, and at their chosen times of the day.

The question and answer discussion area is necessarily asynchronous, but viewers, particularly students, produce considered questions and the presenters usually answer at length, with references to further resources if relevant. As in the live event, students vote on their favourite posters, and are encouraged to view posters from all faculties. For many students this offers a rare opportunity to view widely differing research topics.

The event has developed considerably from its first conception in Vital, largely in response to constructive feedback from past participants. Adaptation of the technology in Vocal has enabled many improvements in technology and design, most notably the automatic emailing of questions to speed up the discussion process.

This year, we have added the option of a gallery style layout to meet requests. The success of the online discussions is crucial to this event. In the first year of the event only a few participants actively engaged in discussions. Subsequently this participation was included into the “attendance requirements”, resulting in much wider engagement, but, while participants are asked to comment on two other posters, most engage much more widely. The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive:

It is quite innovative and I am enjoying the experience very much.” “Nice that you can spend a little more time frequently perusing the posters.” “It’s also really nice that people take the time to make comments, some in great detail

A major complaint has been of the lack of outside contribution from staff members in the University! To experience this years’ Poster Day online for yourself, learn of the research of over 60 participants and engage in the online discussions, see https://vocal.liv.ac.uk/sites/posterdayonline/2012/ External visitors can access the event at https://vocal-external.liv.ac.uk/sites/posterdayonline/2012/  and login in using user-name: pdo2012;  password: Liverpool; We also welcome your feedback. You may add to our event feedback form, or offer your opinions on the benefits of this form of event below. How far can we promote active networking in an online environment?

Teaching for Researchers – an accredited teaching qualification

The Teaching for Researchers Course has been running for two years already. We are delighted to report that as of March 2012, 88 Research Staff and Postgraduate Research Students have successfully completed the course!

This Learning and Teaching development opportunity allows those who complete it to receive a recognised qualification as Associate Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA). Researchers who completed the course have gone through the application process successfully and found the interaction with HEA effortless. As a result the University is increasing steadily the number of staff with a recognised teaching qualification.
The interest in attending this course has been remarkable and the feedback we have received demonstrates that researchers appreciate this development opportunity. The fact that the provision is accredited by a recognised professional body makes it attractive and highly beneficial in terms of professional development aspirations. Furthermore, our participants have been very positive about the whole learning experience.

The opportunity to meet up with other researchers across the University and form a cohort over two academic semesters is also valuable. The discussions over lunch, during the sessions, the peer support that is ongoing through the process and the feedback from tutors are all highly valued and commended by our participants.

The course makes use of VITAL, the University’s virtual learning environment for uploading learning material, submission of assessment tasks and feedback. This gives participants the opportunity to experience the benefits (and occasional challenges) of using an online learning environment. Our aim as tutors is to offer researchers the opportunity to experience the whole teaching practice as it currently happens in classrooms across the University.

Finally, we are delighted to announce that following the very positive Skype meeting with our External Examiner in February 2012, we have received confirmation that the class of October 2011 has now completed successfully the Teaching for Researchers course. Certificates have already been issued and our participants can start applying to obtain their accredited qualification by the HEA. Congratulations to the class of October 2011!

For more information about this course, please contact us: Christos Petichakis, c.petichakis@liv.ac.uk; Stuart McGugan: s.mcgugan@liv.ac.uk