A Novel, Flexible Solution for Teaching Research Methods – Monash University | Team Cansler

To learn more or access this platform for your own Monash lessons, contact basia.diug@monash.edu

Our novel online Research Methods in Medicine (RMM) module has supported the successful transition of the university’s medical program from an undergraduate (MBBS) to a postgraduate (MD) degree, proving a success with students and now expanding to numerous other faculty programs.

The module — the first fully online module in Monash’s medical program — was first launched in 2017 as a pilot project to support the 500 new MD students preparing for their sophomore year in 2018. These students have now graduated and their repeat access to online course materials during their final two years of study is a testament to the module’s attractive design and appreciation of the content covered.

RMM focuses on continuing education in biostatistics and on qualitative and quantitative research methods. These interactive modules prepare students for their final year of research, the Scholarly Intensive Placement, in which they conduct or contribute to an independent, real-world research project at one of the university’s many medical schools.

Lead Developer Professor Basia Diug leads the undergraduate portfolio of the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. She was equally passionate about the need for quality education and the public health importance of being part of such a project.

“It was really important to us that this module conveyed these highly transferrable concepts in an engaging, inspirational and flexible way to accommodate and expand our medical students on local and regional hospital campuses as well as our Malaysian cohort into other medical and science programs at the university . It’s really rewarding to see that we’ve met these goals, with student feedback and material access metrics showing our students keep coming back to these resources.”

Six topics are taught through e-books, each designed to be worked through over two weeks:

  1. The role of statistics in healthcare
  2. Graphic and chart representation
  3. Quantification of uncertainty in data analysis
  4. Evaluation of statistical significance
  5. Additional statistical methods: Chi-square and nonparametric methods
  6. Introduction to qualitative methods

The narration, assignments, and quizzes are the same in each e-book, but students are randomly assigned unique records, encouraging high-level theoretical collaboration among students and maintaining high standards of academic integrity.

“We wanted to make the online learning experience as comprehensive as possible. Some of the innovative elements we’ve included are customized instructional videos with embedded H5P questions, hands-on applications with drawing charts, gamification of key concepts in the form of crosswords for consolidation, activities that require application and data manipulation, and interactive infographics .”

The main assessment will be conducted via an online interactive activity, The Sunnyville Report. This public health assessment on behalf of a fictional council takes 10-12 hours to complete and includes 43 questions and tasks that incorporate all the skills learned, with automatic scoring.

The feedback from the students was consistently positive:

“Helpful in consolidating concepts. Lifesaver in understanding tricky concepts, especially in an online learning environment where support is harder to get. Enjoyed the additional questions to reinforce concepts!’

Between the module launch in April 2017 and the completion of the second cohort of 500 MD students in 2021, the e-book ‘The role of statistics in healthcare alone had collected more than 220,000 unique views from students. By including data from 2021, it also reflects the growth in online medical learning that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its inception, the module has been enthusiastically received by the Monash Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Bachelor of Health Sciences, Bachelor of Public Health, Bachelor of Physiotherapy and Master of Public Health.

The module was developed by educational experts from Monash Public Health and Preventive Medicine with support from staff from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and funded by internal university grants. Prof. Diug and colleagues would like to thank everyone who made this possible.

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