The COVID-19 pandemic has once again highlighted the relationship between skilled communication by health professionals and patient outcomes (Moore, Rivera Mercado, Grez Artigues, et al., 2018). However, the pandemic has also introduced challenges in delivering face-to-face communication skills training. To overcome these challenges and meet the ongoing need for communication skills training we used an approach based on Kolb’s (1984) model of experiential learning to adapt our ACST programme for blended learning delivery.
Blended learning has been used to train health professionals for many years, but there remains much to be learned about the transition of ‘soft skills’ training to the online environment (Moore, Rivera Mercado, Grez Artigues, et al., 2018;, Kolb, 1984; Hess, Hagemeier, Blackwelder, et al, 2016). We contribute to this literature by evaluating our blended learning course in comparison to our long-running face-to-face equivalent.
Our two-day course has been evaluated since inception (2016) using an anonymised, self-reported questionnaire created by Bibila & Rabiee (2013) that measures level of confidence in communication. We analysed trends in pre-/post confidence scores from our final three face-to-face courses and first three blended learning equivalents. We then used thematic analysis of participant feedback to evaluate choices made in the educational design of the blended learning course against evidence from health education literature.
Trend analysis showed participants report improvements in confidence that were equivalent between the two courses. Thematic analysis demonstrated clear constructive alignment between learning outcomes, course content and participant learning. Our findings indicate that communications skills training delivered via blended learning can deliver equivalent outcomes to face-to-face learning.
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