Pharmacy graduates in many countries are required to complete a period of supervised practice before becoming eligible for registration as a pharmacist. In Australia, graduates must complete the equivalent of 1 full-time year of supervised preregistration training (internship) and a part-time preregistration course that is designed to assist them in integrating their undergraduate learning into real-world practice and transition from student to independent competent pharmacist. (1) They must also pass written and oral competency-based registration examinations.
Since preregistrants usually work full-time and may be many miles from an education provider, courses usually use distance education as a delivery method. Preregistration education in Australia has historically been delivered through traditional distance education methods such as self-directed learning and written assignments, supplemented by face-to-face education. With traditional distance education modalities, preregistrants are not easily able to connect with their fellow students and teachers to share experiences and learn from each other, and they may feel isolated and unsupported. The development of online teaching and learning technologies has allowed distance education to become more dynamic and interactive, therefore overcoming some of these issues. (2,3)
Although aspects of pharmacy education have been delivered online in various ways over recent years, (2,4,5) no published literature describes online teaching and learning in a pharmacy preregistration course. This paper describes the development and evaluation of the first 2 years of the Monash University Pharmacy Preregistration (Internship) Course, which includes a significant online distance education component.
The course concept and initial framework was designed by staff members from the Monash University Department of Pharmacy Practice. An advisory committee consisting of a representative of the pharmacy registering authority, a hospital pharmacist, a community pharmacist, a rural pharmacist, and a preregistrant was established to guide course development. The curriculum was based on Australian competency standards, practice standards, and guidelines for pharmacists. Teaching modalities were selected to enable course objectives to be met while also maximizing student interaction and taking into consideration concerns in the profession about the suitability of online course delivery. A pharmacist with experience in hospital and community pharmacy and pharmacy education was engaged to develop and implement the curriculum. Course learning objectives are described in Table 1. The course was approved by the local registering authority, the Pharmacy Board of Victoria.
Online course components were delivered using WebCT (Universal Learning Technology, Boston, MA), a Web-based learning management system that allows students to access course materials and online discussions at any time from any computer with Internet access.
Asynchronous online discussion was chosen as the main distance education modality because it provides group interaction so that students can share ideas and experiences, and it enables students to interact at any time convenient for them. In contrast to face-to-face meetings, asynchronous discussion also gives students an equal voice and time to research the topic and consider their answers before responding.
Self-directed and face-to-face activities were also included to supplement the online component and address topics that could not be covered online (eg, communication skills). The overall course structure is shown in Table 2.
Small group online discussions. Discussion groups included 10 to 12 preregistrants from a mix of hospital and community practices in metropolitan and rural areas, plus a practicing pharmacist as discussion moderator. …