Project update for 2017

As we’re nearing the end of 2017 I thought I’d post a quick progress report on the project. Earlier this year we gathered data from two focus group discussions when the students from Bangladesh completed. I also interviewed the facilitator to learn more about his experience of the process. Shortly after that the student cohort from Minas Gerais (Brazil) finished and we did the same thing. The cohort from Bern consisted of a smaller group of MSc students so we only completed one focus group with them. I also recently completed two focus group discussions with my own students after finishing our ethics course a few weeks ago. So that means, to date, we have two datasets of 7 FGDs among students across 4 universities in 4 countries, as well as interviews with 3 facilitators.

The current plan is for another 2 or 3 cohorts to complete the course in early 2018 and conduct focus groups and interviews with them too. Once that’s done we’ll wrap up the course and spend some time analysing the data from the project. The idea is that we’ll start putting out more papers at the end of 2018 and through 2019.


Certificate presentation ceremony in Bangladesh


I’ve just had the pleasure of learning that the students from the Bangladesh Health Professions Institute who completed the online component of the international ethics course held a presentation ceremony with their certificates of completion. Here is a picture of the class with their certificates.

It was wonderful having the students participate in the project and I hope to see another group from this institution participating next year.

Mid-year progress report

It’s been both a relatively quiet and also productive 6 months in 2017. Most of the work was up front in the design and planning stages, so there hasn’t a lot of that busy work. However, we’ve had 3 cohorts finish the course (Bangladesh, Bern and Minas Gerais), while my own students form UWC have been progressing more slowly but in parallel (our course runs over the entire year).

We had our student focus groups for Bangladesh completed in May and the Brazilian ones done just a few weeks ago. Our postgraduate cohort from Bern finished yesterday, so we’ll be working up to the data collection shortly. I also conducted an interview with the facilitator in Bangladesh, which went very well and have begun planning the interview with our collaborator in Minas Gerais.

Finally, the project has also recently received ethics clearance from the University of Cape Town, so we’re hoping that the 4th year cohort will be able to start soon. The facilitator at UCT is also hoping to use the course for another cohort in early 2018, so they’ll have 2 sets of data for comparison.

At this point I haven’t had a look at any of the data but it really doesn’t matter if any of this “works” or not. At the very least, we’ve generated a ton of interaction among students and lecturers in physio departments in a wide variety of educational, social and political contexts. Whether it works or not doesn’t really seem to be the point. We’ve already learned a lot about how these kinds of courses might work and what it takes to get them up and running. These lessons seem pertinent for anyone else who is interested in online and blended learning in any kind of physiotherapy education and I suspect that we’re going to see an increase in courses like this in the next few years.

First cohort completed

Earlier this year we had our first three cohorts of students start the online ethics course. Students from the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (Bangladesh), University of the Western Cape (South Africa), and the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil) started more or less at the same time in February / March and are progressing through the topics at different times. However, there was significant overlap for the students to be able to spend time reading and commenting on each other’s work.

The scale of the interactions makes it really difficult for any single reader to go through all students’ work, so any thoughts we might have had with respect to keeping up with the writing, quickly went out the window. Between 40 and 50 students from each institution were writing at least one post a week, and also reading and commenting on each other’s posts, meaning that they were most likely generating about 300 discrete pieces of content per week (we’ll look at the statistics later).

The students from Bangladesh were the first cohort to complete the course topics, in alignment with their curriculum requirements. The students in Brazil will most likely finish in June, while students at the University of the Western Cape will keep working on the module for the rest of the year. The facilitator of the students in Bangladesh has already completed two sets of focus group discussions, which will be sent for transcription shortly. As we begin the analysis of those transcripts we’ll begin sharing preliminary findings here.

Two year progress report

It’s been about two years since I first got this project approved at my own institution and so I thought I’d take stock of where we’ve come since then. First though, here are the aim and objectives of the study (in retrospect I’m not satisfied with how I wrote these, but it was about 2.5 years ago and things have changed – I’ve changed – since then):


The aim of this study is to collaboratively design a blended learning environment for a module in Professional Ethics, and to determine if participation in that module leads to the development of graduate attributes through enhanced student engagement as part of improving student success.


  1. To design an open blended learning environment in collaboration with colleagues from a range of international health professions education programmes.
  2. To develop a set of guidelines for health professions educators who are interested in creating open blended learning environments.
  3. To determine if participation in an open blended learning environment can lead to the development of graduate attributes.
  4. To determine if participation in an open blended learning environment can lead to enhanced student engagement.

At this point we’ve “only” achieved the first objective, in that we’ve designed an online ethics course (objective 1). However, we’ve also reached the following milestones, which were not part of the original idea:

  1. Surveyed students from physiotherapy departments in 7 countries (Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Luxembourg, South Africa, Sudan, and Switzerland) as part of the design process
  2. Conducted some pretty solid reliability and validity testing of the survey instrument, making it a resource in itself
  3. Presented the results of that survey at the SAAHE conference, and will be presenting an updated version at ER-WCPT in two weeks
  4. Piloted the course over a full year with 50 final year students at the University of the Western Cape

In addition, we’ve had the project approved and received ethics clearance from several collaborating institutions (which is no small feat), and signed a formal MOU between the University of Antwerp and the University of the Western Cape, which is hopefully the beginning of further collaboration between the institutions.

In short, while we haven’t made the progress I had originally anticipated, we have also achieved a few other milestones that were not part of the initial project. So, where to next?

  1. Run the course among collaborating institutions in 2017
  2. Interview course facilitators (objective 2)
  3. Conduct focus groups with students at each institution (objective 3 and 4)

In the process of running this project, we’ve not only made progress on the research itself but also established relationships that would most likely not have materialised without it. We’ve learned a lot about setting up online courses, and set up a process for conducting inter-institutional research across departments in different countries for collaborative learning between students.

I think that’s pretty cool.

ER-WCPT abstract shortlisted for award

Update: Unfortunately we didn’t win 😦

Just a quick update to share the news that the poster we’re presenting at the ER-WCPT conference in November, “Digital Literacy of Physiotherapy Students: a Barrier for International E-Learning?” has been shortlisted for a prize in the Practice in a digital age – Quantitative research theme.