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1.  An exploration of student experiences of using biology podcasts in nursing training 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:12.
Students regard biological science as one of the most difficult components of the nursing curriculum. However, a good understanding of this area is essential for effective nursing practice. The aim of this study was to explore nursing students’ perceptions of the usefulness of supplementary biology podcasts for their learning.
Biological science podcasts (n = 9) were made available to first-year nursing students (n = 189) as supplementary learning tools. On completion of their first year, students were asked to complete a survey which investigated the frequency of their podcast use, reasons for use and their perception of the usefulness of podcasts as a learning tool. 153 of these students participated in the survey study (80.9%). Two focus groups were conducted with students (n = 6) to gain a detailed understanding of student experiences of the usefulness of the podcasts for their learning.
Survey data demonstrated that most students (71%) accessed at least one podcast. The majority of students who reported accessing podcasts agreed that they were useful as learning tools (83%), revision aids (83%) and that they helped promote understanding of course materials (72%). Focus group participants discussed how they found podcasts especially useful in terms of revision. Students valued being able to repeatedly access the lecture materials, and appreciated having access to podcasts from a range of lecturers. Focus group members discussed the benefits of live recordings, in terms of valuing the information gleaned from questions asked during the lecture sessions, although there were concerns about the level of background noise in live recordings. Lack of awareness of the availability of podcasts was an issue raised by participants in both the survey component and the focus groups and this negatively impacted on podcast use.
Nursing students found the availability of biology podcasts helpful for their learning. Successful implementation of these tools to support learning requires teaching staff to understand and promote the importance of these tools.
PMCID: PMC3565862  PMID: 23360078
Podcast; Biology; Pre-registration nursing
2.  Using Audience Response Technology to provide formative feedback on pharmacology performance for non-medical prescribing students - a preliminary evaluation 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:113.
The use of anonymous audience response technology (ART) to actively engage students in classroom learning has been evaluated positively across multiple settings. To date, however, there has been no empirical evaluation of the use of individualised ART handsets and formative feedback of ART scores. The present study investigates student perceptions of such a system and the relationship between formative feedback results and exam performance.
Four successive cohorts of Non-Medical Prescribing students (n=107) had access to the individualised ART system and three of these groups (n=72) completed a questionnaire about their perceptions of using ART. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with a purposive sample of seven students who achieved a range of scores on the formative feedback. Using data from all four cohorts of students, the relationship between mean ART scores and summative pharmacology exam score was examined using a non-parametric correlation.
Questionnaire and interview data suggested that the use of ART enhanced the classroom environment, motivated students and promoted learning. Questionnaire data demonstrated that students found the formative feedback helpful for identifying their learning needs (95.6%), guiding their independent study (86.8%), and as a revision tool (88.3%). Interviewees particularly valued the objectivity of the individualised feedback which helped them to self-manage their learning. Interviewees’ initial anxiety about revealing their level of pharmacology knowledge to the lecturer and to themselves reduced over time as students focused on the learning benefits associated with the feedback.
A significant positive correlation was found between students’ formative feedback scores and their summative pharmacology exam scores (Spearman’s rho = 0.71, N=107, p<.01).
Despite initial anxiety about the use of individualised ART units, students rated the helpfulness of the individualised handsets and personalised formative feedback highly. The significant correlation between ART response scores and student exam scores suggests that formative feedback can provide students with a useful reference point in terms of their level of exam-readiness.
PMCID: PMC3515432  PMID: 23148762
Audience response technology; Teaching; Pharmacology; Non-medical prescribing
3.  Pharmacology podcasts: a qualitative study of non-medical prescribing students' use, perceptions and impact on learning 
There is growing research on student use of podcasts in academic settings. However, there is little in-depth research focusing on student experience of podcasts, in particular in terms of barriers to, and facilitators of, podcast use and students' perceptions of the usefulness of podcasts as learning tools. This study aimed to explore the experiences of non-medical prescribing students who had access to podcasts of key pharmacology lectures as supplementary learning tools to their existing course materials.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out with seven non-medical prescribing students (average age = 43 years), all of whom were nurses, who had access to seven podcasts of key pharmacology lectures. These podcasts took the form of downloadable audio lecture recordings available through the virtual learning environment WebCT. Low, medium and high users of the podcasts took part in the interviews in order to access a variety of student experiences. Interview data was analysed using thematic template analysis to identify key themes surrounding student experience of podcast availability, particularly in relation to barriers to and facilitators of podcast use, and students' experiences of podcasts as a learning tool.
Students used podcasts for a variety of reasons such as revisiting lectures, preparing for exams, to clarify or revise specific topics and, to a lesser extent, to catch up on a missed lecture. Barriers to podcast use centred mainly around technological issues. Lack of experience of the technology required to access podcasts proved a barrier for some students. A lack of access to suitable technology was also a reported barrier. Family assistance and I.T. assistance from the university helped facilitate students' use of the podcasts. Students found that using podcasts allowed them to have greater control over their learning and to gauge their learning needs, as well as helping them build their understanding of a complex topic.
Students used podcasts for a variety of reasons. Barriers to podcasts use were generally related to technological issues. Students often found that once assistance had been gained regarding these technological issues, they accessed the podcasts more easily. Students felt that access to podcasts added value to their learning materials by allowing them to better manage their learning and build their understanding. Podcasts represent a valuable additional learning tool for this specific group of older students.
PMCID: PMC3024307  PMID: 21223547
4.  Audience response technology: Engaging and empowering non-medical prescribing students in pharmacology learning 
BMC Medical Education  2010;10:73.
Non-medical prescribing (NMP) is a six month course for nurses and certain allied health professionals. It is critical that these students develop a good understanding of pharmacology; however, many students are mature learners with little or no formal biological science knowledge and struggle with the pharmacology component. The implications for patient safety are profound, therefore we encourage students not just to memorise enough pharmacology to pass the exam but to be able to integrate it into clinical practice. Audience response technology (ART), such as the KeePad system (KS) has been shown to promote an active approach to learning and provide instant formative feedback. The aim of this project, therefore, was to incorporate and evaluate the use the KS in promoting pharmacology understanding in NMP students.
Questions were incorporated into eight pharmacology lectures, comprising a mix of basic and clinical pharmacology, using TurningPoint software. Student (n = 33) responses to questions were recorded using the KS software and the percentage of students getting the question incorrect and correct was made immediately available in the lecture in graphical form. Survey data collected from these students investigated student perceptions on the use of the system generally and specifically as a learning tool. More in depth discussion of the usefulness of the KS was derived from a focus group comprising 5 students.
100% of students enjoyed using the KS and felt it promoted their understanding of key concepts; 92% stated that it helped identify their learning needs and 87% agreed that the technology was useful in promoting integration of concepts. The most prevalent theme within feedback was that of identifying their own learning needs. Analysis of data from the focus group generated similar themes, with the addition of improving teaching. Repeated questioning produced a significant increase (p < 0.05) in student knowledge of specific pharmacological concepts.
The use of ART enhanced non-medical prescribing students' experience of pharmacology teaching. Student perceptions were that this system increased their ability to identify learning needs and promoted understanding and integration of concepts. Students also reported that the technology aided exam revision and reduced associated anxiety.
PMCID: PMC2978227  PMID: 20979620
5.  Pharmacology as a foreign language: A preliminary evaluation of podcasting as a supplementary learning tool for non-medical prescribing students 
Nurses and other health professionals in the U.K. can gain similar prescribing rights to doctors by undertaking a non-medical prescribing course. Non-medical prescribing students must have a thorough understanding of the pharmacology of prescribing to ensure safe practice. Pharmacology education at this level is complicated by the variation in students' prior subject knowledge of, and anxiety about, the subject. The recent advances in technology, particularly the potential for mobile learning, provide increased opportunities for students to familiarise themselves with lecture materials and hence promote understanding. The objective of this study was therefore to evaluate both the subjective (student perception) and objective (student use and exam results) usefulness of podcasts of pharmacology lectures which were provided as an extra learning tool to two cohorts (n = 69) of non-medical prescribing students.
The podcasts were made available to students through the virtual learning environment WebCT. Use of podcasts by two successive cohorts of nurse prescribing students (n = 69) was tracked through WebCT. Survey data, which was collected from 44 of these students, investigated patterns of/reasons for podcast use and perceived usefulness of podcasts as a learning tool. Of these 69 students, 64 completed the pharmacology exam. In order to examine any impact of podcasts on student knowledge, their exam results were compared with those of two historical cohorts who did not have access to podcasts (n = 70).
WebCT tracking showed that 91% of students accessed at least one podcast. 93% of students used the podcasts to revisit a lecture, 85% used podcasts for revision, and 61% used the podcasts when they had a specific question. Only 22% used the podcasts because they had missed a pharmacology session. Most students (81%) generally listened to the entire podcast rather than specific sections and most (73%) used them while referring to their lecture handouts. The majority of students found the podcasts helpful as a learning tool, as a revision aid and in promoting their understanding of the subject. Evaluation of the range of marks obtained, mode mark and mean mark suggested improved knowledge in students with access to podcasts compared to historical cohorts of students who did not have access to pharmacology podcasts.
The results of this study suggest that non-medical prescribing students utilised podcasts of pharmacology lectures, and have found the availability of these podcasts helpful for their learning. Exam results indicate that the availability of podcasts was also associated with improved exam performance.
PMCID: PMC2804703  PMID: 20021673
6.  Problem-based learning and larger student groups: mutually exclusive or compatible concepts – a pilot study 
Problem-based learning is recognised as promoting integration of knowledge and fostering a deeper approach to life-long learning, but is associated with significant resource implications. In order to encourage second year undergraduate medical students to integrate their pharmacological knowledge in a professionally relevant clinical context, with limited staff resources, we developed a novel clustered PBL approach. This paper utilises preliminary data from both the facilitator and student viewpoint to determine whether the use of this novel methodology is feasible with large groups of students.
Students were divided into 16 groups (20–21 students/group) and were allocated a PBL facilitator. Each group was then divided into seven subgroups, or clusters, of 2 or 3 students wh each cluster being allocated a specific case. Each cluster was then provided with more detailed clinical information and studied an individual and distinct case-study. An electronic questionnaire was used to evaluate both student and facilitator perception of this clustered PBL format, with each being asked to rate the content, structure, facilitator effectiveness, and their personal view of the wider learning experience.
Despite initial misgivings, facilitators managed this more complex clustered PBL methodology effectively within the time restraints and reported that they enjoyed the process. They felt that the cases effectively illustrated medical concepts and fitted and reinforced the students' pharmacological knowledge, but were less convinced that the scenario motivated students to use additional resources or stimulated their interest in pharmacology.
Student feedback was broadly similar to that of the facilitators; although they were more positive about the scenario stimulating the use of additional resources and an interest in pharmacology.
This clustered PBL methodology can be successfully used with larger groups of students. The key to success lies with challenging and well situated clinically relevant cases together with enthusiastic facilitators. Facilitator enjoyment of the PBL process may be related to adequate training and previous PBL experience, rather than academic background. The smaller number of facilitators required using this clustered PBL approach allows for facilitators with 'a belief in the philosophy of PBL' to volunteer which would again impact on the success of the process.
PMCID: PMC2441620  PMID: 18564428

Results 1-6 (6)