Technology in physiotherapy education (FS-12)

Introduction video



C Häger1, N Swaminathan2, C Clark3, H Ibrahim Kassem4, S McDonough5
1Umeå University, Community Medicine and Rehabilitation; Physiotherapy, Umeå, Sweden, 2SRI RAMACHANDRA Institute of Higher Education and Research, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chennai, India, 3Bournemouth University, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bournemouth, United Kingdom, 4Delta University for Science and Technology, Faculty of Physical Therapy, Dakahlia, Egypt, 5School at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Physiotherapy, Dublin, Ireland
Learning objectives:
  1. At the end of this symposium the participants will have an up-to-date view on benefits and challenges of digitalisation and technology in physiotherapy education, particularly considering the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  2. Participants will have identified and discussed current facilitators and barriers in technology enhanced physiotherapy education, and how these may vary globally.
  3. Participants will be able to provide examples of the role of blended learning, virtual learning and simulation-based physiotherapy education based on available evidence and discuss the needs for further development in this area.

Description: Internationally, even prior to year 2020 higher education had started to transmute to meet the learning demands of the current generation and the needs of the society (1). The use of digital technology has the power to improve healthcare provision giving patients more access and control of their care (2). Providing students with increased online opportunities will enhance their digital learning, this experience has been made easier by digital technology and the worldwide web and more accessible via mobile technology. The Covid-19 pandemic in year 2020 brought radical and fast changes to the global society with regards to all kind of communications and so also to education and learning/teaching methods and platforms. The entire world transformed rapidly into using more and in some cases only digital arenas. Novel examples of teaching, also involving simulation based training and virtual learning are increasingly used in health professional education. All of these methods should be implemented to improve active learning. Blended Learning (BL) refers to a systematic teaching method which combines the aspects of face-to-face and online interactions using appropriate Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (3). Synchronous delivery of contents using technology during the pandemic has been a challenge, especially for educators in developing countries. Quick adaptation to the online teaching required infrastructure creation and faculty training (4). So given the situation of today, how do the conditions look like worldwide and how may we improve with regards to physiotherapy education?

Active learner's participation, maximal utilization of student learning time, peer learning and self-reflection are the hall marks of BL (5). This method provides ample opportunities for learners with diverse styles as learning materials are provided through online platforms with timely retrieval. Availability of course content in the online platform provides maximum flexibility to the learners, whilst face to face sessions focus on improving the higher order thinking of the learners. Optimally, integrating online and face to session provides for a better learning experience. By participating in online discussions and forums with their peers, learners gain the advantages of collaborative learning (6). However, there is a need to also evaluate potential drawbacks, as many of us may have experienced during the last year.

Health sciences programmes impart critical thinking and clinical skills along with the required cognitive aspects as advocated by Bloom’s taxonomy(7). Although digital technology is widely used in higher education, its effectiveness in health professional education needs further exploration. Snodgrass (2011) reported that whilst the use of Wiki activities improved the clinical reasoning skills of undergraduate physiotherapy student's, seen from the teacher's perspective, the students reported that they preferred face to face sessions (8). Although systematic reviews have demonstrated the positive effect of blended learning (9) and simulated learning (10) in clinical education; further research is warranted to explore perceptions of students, educators, learners and higher education providers. Understanding the theories behind the implementation of digital technology including virtual learning in physiotherapy education will enable educators to enhance the skills and competencies of the entry level graduate physiotherapy students.

Implications/conclusions: There is promising evidence for the value and implementation of technology enhanced teaching and learning methods in entry level physiotherapy education and also in continued professional development. Rapidly emerging methods also offer new possibilities but more reflection, understanding and development, also of evaluation tools are needed. Well-designed research in this area is urgently warranted but should be based on experience across the fields and challenges faced globally.
1. Garrison DR, Kanuka H. Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. Internet High Educ. 2004 Apr 1;7(2):95–105.
2. NHS England. A digital framework for Allied Health professionals. 2019
3. Okaz AA. Integrating Blended Learning in Higher Education. Procedia - Soc Behav Sci. 2015 May 13; 186:600–3.
4. Swaminathan N, Govindharaj P, Jagadeesh NS, Ravichandran L 2020, Evaluating the effectiveness of an online faculty development programme for nurse educators about remote teaching during COVID-19, Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences,
5. Glogowska M, Young P, Lockyer L, Moule P. How ‘blended’ is blended learning?: Students’ perceptions of issues around the integration of online and face-to-face learning in a continuing professional development (CPD) health care context. Nurse Educ Today. 2011 Nov 1;31(8):887–91.
6. Munir Ahmed R., Prem Kumar D. Implementing blended learning into the academic programs of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka. J Complement Integr Med. 2014;11(2):147.
7. Bloom, B. S. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain (1956)." New York: David McKay Co Inc
8. Snodgrass S. Wiki activities in blended learning for health professional students: Enhancing critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills. Australas J Educ Technol [Internet]. 2011 Aug 10 [cited 2018 Dec 9];27(4).
9. Rowe M, Frantz J, Bozalek V. The role of blended learning in the clinical education of healthcare students: A systematic review. Med Teach. 2012 Apr 1;34(4):e216–21.
10. Wright, A., Moss, P., Dennis, D.M. et al. The influence of a full-time, immersive simulation-based clinical placement on physiotherapy student confidence during the transition to clinical practice. Adv Simul 3, 3 (2018)

Key-words: 1. Physiotherapy education 2. Digital teaching 3. Blended learning 4. Covid-19

Funding acknowledgements: No funding

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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