A novel, flexible solution to teaching research methods

Professor Basia DiugTo find out more or access this platform for your own Monash teaching, 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 degree (MD), proven a hit with students in the process, and now been expanded to numerous other programs across the Faculty.

The module – the first fully online module of the Monash medical program – was first launched as a pilot in 2017, to support the 500 new MD students preparing to undertake their third year of studies in 2018. Those students have now graduated, and their repeated accessing of online course materials throughout their final two years of study is testament to the engaging design of the module, and valuation of the content covered.

RMM focuses on upskilling in biostatistics, and both qualitative and quantitative research methods. These interactive modules prepare the students for their final year research immersion, the Scholarly Intensive Placement, in which they undertake or contribute to a discrete real-world research project at one of the University’s many medical schools.

Lead developer Professor Basia Diug heads the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine’s undergraduate portfolio. Equally inspired by the need for quality education and the importance of public health, she was thrilled to be part of such a project.

“It really mattered to us that this module taught these highly-transferrable concepts in ways that were engaging, inspiring, and flexible enough to accommodate our Medical students at local and regional hospital campuses as well as our cohort in Malaysia, and to be scaled up into other medical and science programs across the University. It’s really rewarding to see that we’ve met those goals, through the student feedback we’ve had, and the materials access metrics, which shows our students keep referring back to these resources.”

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

  1. The role of statistics in health
  2. Graphical and chart representation
  3. Quantifying uncertainty in data analysis
  4. Evaluation of statistical significance
  5. Additional statistical methods: chi-square & non-parametric methods
  6. Introduction to qualitative methods

The narrative, tasks and quiz questions are constant across each e-book, but students are randomly assigned unique datasets, encouraging high-level theoretical collaboration between students and maintaining high academic integrity standards.

“We wanted to make the online learning experience as rich as possible. Some of the innovative elements we included are bespoke educational videos with H5P questions embedded, hands-on application with the drawing of graphs, gamification of key concepts in form of consolidation crosswords, activities that require application and data manipulation, and interactive infographics.”

The major assessment is conducted via an online interactive activity, The Sunnyville Report. This public health evaluation on behalf of a fictional council takes 10-12 hours, and comprises 43 questions and tasks incorporating all learned skill sets, with automated marking.

The student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive:

‘Helpful in consolidating concepts. Life-saver in understanding tricky concepts especially in an online learning environment where it’s more difficult to reach out for assistance. Enjoyed the extra questions to reinforce concepts!’  

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

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