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Proving remote learning can still be active and engaging

RoleplayUK has been working with the University of Strathclyde since 2014, building the confidence of MPharm students to manage effective patient conversations, as their studies and career in pharmacy develops.
The training hinges on interactive workshops exploring the impact of communication styles and how to adapt personal behaviour to reach better outcomes – to achieve this a great deal of emphasis has always been placed on practice and receiving feedback.

The problem

The necessity to maintain social distancing requirements naturally had a huge impact on the established face-to-face workshop, especially when training two individual year group programmes, each involving 140 students. The course directors therefore needed to quickly implement an effective alternative to maintain the communication skills development of their students – without compromising the interactive element of the course.

The solution

Working closely with the MPharm course developers, RoleplayUK adjusted the course design to an interactive remote delivery – choosing Zoom for its flexible breakout room and chat functionality.

Students were allocated to one of four 90 minutes sessions for each programme, ensuring that attention levels could be kept high, and numbers could be easily managed by the facilitator – effectively creating a highly inclusive environment.

To support the learning, the content delivery included short simulated conversations, played by professional actors designed to engage the students in what poor and good behaviour looks like, with students commenting on their observations using the chat function.

The breakout room facility, provided the perfect opportunity for students to work closely with a Practice Coach and up to three of their peers, and personally practise their own conversations, receiving developmental feedback from the coach and their colleagues. With over half of the workshop dedicated to practice, all students had plenty of time to ‘have a go’ in a safe and supporting space and re-run their conversations, until they felt they’d ‘nailed it’.

The Results

Straight from the students’ mouths:
“The breakout rooms were extremely helpful in terms of working in a very small group in a safe environment. I felt very supported and comfortable to engage and make mistakes. The actor was very supportive and gave very good feedback. An extremely enjoyable and informative session. The use of OARS and the three key techniques was invaluable.”

“Getting the opportunity to work one-on-one with the actors to consolidate the new techniques we were taught was excellent.”

“In the very small breakout rooms – everyone had a turn and had to interact & have cameras on etc so was great!”

“I will use these skills at work and hopefully in future situations in my career. I also think that these skills are transferrable to everyday life as well.”

And from their course leader:

“We have worked with RoleplayUK for the last 6 years and their team has been responsive in adapting their skills to suit our students’ learning needs. This year in particular, has been challenging but RPUK’s versatile and dynamic approach has created a new and exciting on-line learning environment that our students loved. Through forum theatre with large groups, to small group work, the skills coaches were really able to support our students’ learning, and make the sessions memorable.”

Ian Towle, Senior Teaching Fellow.
Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

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