Trainees Online (TrOn) is a great
resource for helping trainees prepare for exams independently but
it also has the potential to transform the teaching and delivery of
your core psychiatry course. This page offers some suggestions
of how to combine TrOn with your teaching and how to make this
'blended learning' approach work well for you and your
What is blended
Why is TrOn
a useful way to provide a digital element to my teaching?
When should I
ask trainees to do TrOn modules?
How could I use TrOn with
my course design?
How can I
make blended learning as effective as possible?
How can I access
Blended learning is the combination of
face-to-face teaching with material delivered digitally, for
example through eLearning or an online forum. The idea is that
this can offer students the best of both worlds, with the
opportunity for learning at a pace and time suited to the
individual using the online material and the opportunity to
interact with others, ask questions and apply knowledge in the
classroom environment. Indeed, one meta-analysis of 45 studies
demonstrated that blended learning students achieved better results
than those taught using traditional methods or eLearning alone
(Means et al, 2013).
Why is TrOn a useful way
to provide a digital element to my teaching?
TrOn modules are eLearning modules that
are mapped to the MRCPsych syllabus so they are likely to be
well aligned to the syllabus for your core psychiatry
course. Modules are written by trainees for trainees and are
reviewed by experts to ensure accuracy. They are freely
available to all pre-membership psychiatric trainees (and other
members) of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Therefore core
trainees can access them already for free. This means you
avoid the costs of setting up a digital learning environment.
When should I ask trainees
to do TrOn modules?
Trainees often use TrOn after receiving
teaching as a way of revising the material but research suggests
that there are significant benefits to 'flipping' the classroom and
getting trainees to complete background learning before the
face-to-face session (Levine et
al, 2004; Mazur, 2009). TrOn modules provide a solid foundation
on which to base further learning. Therefore completing a module
before face-to-face teaching will ensure trainees have an
understanding of the topic, freeing up face-to-face learning time
for clarification, reinforcement and problem solving. This
means trainees can attain higher-level learning outcomes, such as
the application, analysis and appraisal of information, within the
same amount of face-to-face time (Brame, 2013; Talbert, 2014).
How could I use TrOn
with my course design?
There are a variety of methods for including
TrOn in your core psychiatry course teaching. Your preference may
depend on what fits best with the current course in your area, how
you wish to introduce TrOn into your course and your intended
Here are a few suggestions:
The flipped classroom
The flipped classroom involves asking students
to do some learning (read a paper, do a TrOn module, watch a video
etc.) prior to face-to-face teaching. This is
one of the most straightforward and flexible ways to incorporate a
digital element to a course that currently uses traditional
teaching methods. How you use the face-to-face time is up to you
but the great thing is that trainees will have already gained the
core knowledge relevant to the topic. This means that rather
than having to deliver a lecture, you can design activities to
reinforce and apply knowledge and meet higher-level learning
objectives. Depending on the exercises you choose you can also help
trainees to develop their communication, team-working, negotiation,
presentation or decision making skills.
Team based learning (TBL)
TBL is a flipped classroom approach, again
requiring trainees to do preparatory work in order to ensure they
have the knowledge to apply in the classroom. TBL sessions may take
place over a whole day or multiple shorter class meetings. The
preparatory work is therefore typically greater than you might
expect for a single teaching session, for example a number of TrOn
modules or key reading chapters. The face-to-face time then
follows a set sequence, starting with a formative quiz answered
first by individuals and then by facilitator chosen teams. The
quiz helps the trainees to reflect on their learning and the
facilitator to identify and explain poorly understood concepts in a
mini-lecture. After this, the main part of the session(s) involves
students working in teams to apply their knowledge to an
'application exercise.' This is a complex problem which
involves a significant decision, for example a clinical case,
research problem or management issue. The different teams work
simultaneously on the same problem(s) and each team feeds back and
justifies their decision encouraging reflection on choices
made. This approach aims to support not only learning but
collaboration, reflection and communication skills (Parmelee et al, 2012).
Problem based learning (PBL)
PBL involves trainees working in a group on a
particular case to identify and meet learning objectives.
Trainees are given a clinical case presentation and work together
to use their pre-existing knowledge to develop a hypothesis to
explain the problem. They then identify what they still need
to learn and how to go about this. Trainees then have time for
private study using resources such as TrOn and its key readings to
meet these learning objectives. The group then meets again to
discuss their learning and update their hypotheses about their case
based on this new information. In core training cases will likely
be based on the core curriculum and MRCPsych syllabus. TrOn is
mapped to this syllabus and is therefore likely to support trainees
in meeting such learning objectives.
Trainee led model
Peer teaching – where trainees teach each
other – and near-peer teaching – where trainees are taught by
others just above their training grade (Ten Cate & Durning, 2007)
– are two teaching methods used in some core psychiatry
courses. The flipped classroom model has been combined with
peer teaching (McLaughlin et al,
2014) and is well matched to the flattened peer-teaching
hierarchy as it relies on an individual facilitating face-to-face
time as opposed to providing expertise. Following completion of
background materials, face-to-face time may be used by the peer
teacher to present and facilitate discussion of an element of the
work of interest to them, for example its application to a clinical
problem which they have experienced.
As you can see many of these methods involve
using TrOn resources before or during teaching sessions. We
feel this is a very effective method as it frees up face-to-face
time for more interactivity and knowledge application, aiding
retention, allowing trainees to see the relevance to their clinical
practice and work at the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy
(Brame, 2013). Where
you want to introduce such methods gradually you can still use TrOn
to check the level of your own teaching and to encourage trainees
to revise classroom material.
How can I make blended
learning as effective as possible?
There are a number of things to consider when
introducing a blended learning approach to your core psychiatry
teaching. Educators with experience introducing blended
learning into their own educational environments highlight the
importance of considering the following to get the most out of
How can I access TrOn?
If you are a member of the College you will
already have access TrOn – just use your college username and
password to log on. We know that many teachers on the core
psychiatry course are not psychiatrists. If you teach but do
not have access then get in contact with the TrOn team.
Brame CJ (2013) Flipping the Classroom.
Center for Teaching and Learning. [website]
Ten Cate O, Durning S (2007) Peer teaching in
medical education: twelve reasons to move from theory to practice.
Medical teacher, 29: 591–599.
DeLozier SJ, Rhodes MG (2016) Flipped
Classrooms: a Review of Key Ideas and Recommendations for Practice.
Educational Psychology Review, 1–11. [abstract]
Godsk M, Hougaard RF, Büchert Lindberg A
(2013) Teaching Online Teaching Online: Seven Pedagogical
Principles for Teacher Training. E-Learn: World Conference
on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher
Education 95-104. [abstract]
Levine RE et al (2004) Transforming a Clinical
Clerkship with Team Learning. Teaching and Learning in
Medicine, 16: 270–275. [abstract]
Mazur E (2009) Farewell, Lecture?
Science, 323: 50–51. [PDF]
McLaughlin JE et al (2014) The Flipped
Classroom. Academic Medicine, 89:
Means B, Murphy R, Baki M (2013) The
Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of
the Empirical Literature. Teachers College Record,
115: 1–47. [PDF]
Parmelee D et al (2012) Team-based learning: A
practical guide: AMEE Guide No. 65. Medical Teacher,
34: 275–287. [abstract]
Talbert R (2014) Creating learning objectives,
flipped classroom style. The Chronicle of Higher
Wood DF (2003) What is problem based
learning ? BMJ, 326: 328–330.