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Connecting learners - a mobile app accessing learning experiences

09 Oct 2019 | Martin E Cohn As a medical student in Argentina, Martin Cohn faced the challenges of fulfilling his learning expectations. Although the approach to teaching was significantly different from the UK system, he noticed the same frustrations happening with local students. He shared his solution, CO-LINK, at NET2019.

There is an emerging world of possibilities with the use of mobile apps, particularly for the provision of high-impact learning experiences. Of note, is the widespread utility of this technology in various disciplines, such as medicine. Nevertheless, many apps used by medical students just focus on explicit knowledge; so although great complementary tools, they do not augment information already provided in readily available learning materials (lectures or books).

‘Bedside’ learning is a critical clinical learning tool, compared to more formal teaching (via lectures and tutorials), and has the capacity to allow for first hand encounters of relevant conditions in a clinical setting. However, learning opportunities for specific conditions of great educational relevance may often be missed due to a lack of awareness by students and tutors. Creating a link between clinicians, medical students and tutors to share availability of such opportunities would be a key ingredient of success for bedside learning. To this end, CO-LINK’s primary aim will be to improve efficiency and optimise management of access to critical clinical learning experiences of the undergraduate students’ curriculum.

The user-friendly and highly accessible app is deployed as a mobile application making use of bedside learning and supplementary bibliography, modelled in accordance to students’ interests, needs, learning stage, teaching staff recommendations and adjusting to pre-set preferences with the end goal of accomplishing the student’s learning expectations. Students will have access to a highly intuitive learning tool that follows their progress, learn from it and recommend actions for improvement.

The app will publish learning sessions called Modelled Educational Clinical Session (MECS) organised and posted by practicing clinicians. MECS are shown in accordance to prioritising algorithms that consider the skill level, pre-set recommendations, needs and personal interests of the student.  The personalisation will open the possibility of individualised follow-up and facilitate achievement of pre-defined goals and targets. The app will put in practice several learning methods to improve knowledge retention, such as practice testing, distributed practice (ie questions related to previous MECS in the weeks following the session) and Interleaved practice (emphasis on variety of cases), amongst others. The translatability potential of the app is numerous, and there are no user limitations. For example, the app can serve for revisions for finals by sixth year medical students and for revision by first year students on principles of physiology in action. To enrich learning (before and after sessions), links to complementary material, could be recommended or manually added by the tutors and teachers.

A critical part of the app is the feedback for those providing the sessions, since these will be useful for revalidations and appraisals, as application of knowledge to practice, effective communication, partnership and teamwork are important elements of the revalidation framework. Thus, participating in the MECS will be of great benefit for clinicians. But, most importantly, CO-LINK could be of great use to trainees who will benefit from both worlds, and, by doing so, extending the possibilities to clinical practice-wide.

This app may be further developed to serve non-medicine curricula. There are potential applications of peer-assisted learning methodologies among students. This is elicited from a need for a more personalised approach to teaching, an endeavour felt to be presently lacking. The CLINICAL-LINK app could be streamlined to facilitate non-formal tutoring among non-medical students in a similar manner as its parent objective. Furthermore, the student union and other college societies may utilise the app as a platform for the promotion of activities (academic and leisure related).

Who knows what awaits the future? The development team is even thinking of a different kind of session called ME-V-R (Modelled Educational Virtual Reality) which can be used in medicine and easily translated to other disciplines, such as engineering and design. The possibility of attending a scheduled class in this manner ie ‘virtually’ will not only widen the access, but also serve as a tool for students with limited mobility.

At the moment, the project is proceeding with the different stages of feasibility analysis and the team is in the process of applying for further funding to continue with the progression of the app. It is just a matter of time to see the benefits of bringing the medical world closer together.

Martin Cohn is an Associate Fellow currently working as a Foundation 1 Doctor at Hillingdon Hospital. As Clinical Research Fellow at Imperial College London, he focused on Alzheimer’s Dementia research and the use of technology for public health (e-Health). He is highly engaged in undergraduate medical teaching and STEM outreach.

Martin shared his work through a poster session at NET2019. Find out more about Advance HE's development programmes, conference and events, with many similar opportunities to share ideas and best practice. 

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