Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Pharmville Community: A Curriculum Resource Platform Integrating Context and Theory

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The Pharmville Community: A Curriculum Resource Platform Integrating Context and Theory

Article excerpt


Practicing pharmacists regularly engage with people in their communities, and to function effectively in the workplace, graduates must integrate theoretical content from the degree subdisciplines and apply them in the context of their practice communities. Becoming a professional is a gradual process of acquiring the cognitive competencies of the disciplinary domains as well as the relevant cultural and social competencies that define professional relationships and practice. (1) Krathwohl and colleagues (2) argue that support for affective learning positively influences the quality of cognitive learning by creating motivation.

If students were to acquire understanding of the composition, nature, and norms of practice communities only after graduation, application of professional context to their studies would be at best hypothetical. Furthermore, student experiences acquired during experiential clinical and community practice experiences are inconsistent between individual students and provide only one context for learning during the pharmacy program. Unless such experiences are provided continually throughout the program, they cannot be relied on as the only mechanism for providing context for learning.

While pharmacy students are conceptually prepared at university for their professional practice, their life experiences are drawn from diverse communities--local and international. (1) To augment learning authenticity, and to refine patient contact skills in professional health care education, many institutions and programs provide a human element by incorporating simulated or virtual patients into the curriculum, often with positive outcomes. (3,4) Generally such programs use 1 or a few individuals, sometimes connected by a family relationship. (5,6) There are examples of extended virtual communities and family case studies in nursing education (7,8); however, the use of individual virtual patients predominates in medical education. In pharmacy education, use of virtual families and communities is generally seen only in electronic patient information databases. In all of the above applications of simulated patients and patient information, the resources embed elements of curriculum as case studies or scenarios. The approach adopted at Monash University is unique in that a substantial cross section of a fictional community is provided for students and academics to facilitate understanding of the communities within which pharmacists work and to provide a realistic practice context.

The Pharmville community was developed commencing in 2008 as a resource platform for the program curriculum. Pharmville includes video vignettes, images of drug structures, photographs of Pharmville people and their documented health profiles, and medical and social histories representative of the diverse conditions of an Australian metropolitan suburb. Multimedia case-history simulation programs have been used with pharmacy students, (9) but nothing as complex and rich as that available in Pharmville.

During a Monash University bachelor of pharmacy (BPharm) program review in 2007-2008, evidence emerged that some students undervalued the need for sciences in the curriculum and had difficulty integrating knowledge between disciplines in the curriculum. Furthermore, feedback from student placement preceptors indicated the need for more application of coursework theory to people. The BPharm review panel agreed that subsequent curriculum developments required integration and strengthening of theory to provide context. This need for bridging the basic sciences in the medicine field with clinical knowledge has been previously described by Voelker, (10) and the positive relationship between affective domain learning and professionalism in pharmacy students by Brown and colleagues, who observed that "professional behavior results from one's values, beliefs, feelings and interpersonal skills." (11)

In developing a response, the Pharmville development team selected an educational approach based in "situated learning," professional enculturation, and authentic activity suitable for the Monash student population. …

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