CPD learning: harness the power

CSP education adviser Nina Paterson suggests ways to make the most of online learning resources

CPD Learning: harness the power

As a new academic year begins this article hopes to show how to get the best out of online learning resources and so enhance your CPD. We’re hoping it’s a natural follow on to the 4 July issue of Frontline, which looked at the application of digital technologies as therapeutic tools. As noted by Euan McComiskie, CSP professional adviser for health informatics, in the article Tech Revolution, www.csp.org.uk/frontline/article/tech-revolution-how-use-digital-opportunities /node/1167583 patients are increasingly comfortable with the benefits of technology in their lives and these days that includes healthcare.  You’ll be covering more about that throughout the pre-registration programme you’re studying on, so we won’t dwell on it here. Instead, we’re going to look at two areas where you as a student physiotherapist can engage with the tech revolution for your own benefit – to support your own development. Specifically, we will focus on helping you to make an informed choice about what’s available online to help you learn, and to reflect upon and record your learning.

There’s often an assumption that as students you’re automatically tech-savvy or digital natives. As CSP education adviser, I get to meet many of you while visiting your programmes. From speaking to you, I know you’re no different from any other demographic of the CSP’s membership. Some of you love technology; others would rather give it a wide berth. Most fall somewhere in between – using it because it meets a need. This leads me to my first point. 

Before you even start searching online, be clear about what you need to learn or consolidate. The technology or tool should be incidental. Make time to identify what your learning needs are so that even if you come across lots of great stuff while you’re looking, you’ll stay focused on your immediate needs. If you do find interesting activities, modules or courses, and the content is good quality but not immediately relevant, bookmark it so you can come back to it when it is.

There’s so much choice online, it pays to be discerning. So how do you sift through what’s out there to know whether it is any good? It’s not enough to be a subject-matter expert; e-learning providers must be able to convey that knowledge to you in a logical order so that you can build up your understanding. Universities or collaborations such as FutureLearn can usually be relied upon because they have subject-matter expertise and are experienced in facilitating learning. 

Any e-learning provider should be able to stand up to similar scrutiny, so the expectations you have for your own university’s e-learning material are a good benchmark. Look for expertise in the subject matter and be sure the expert has a grounding in how to help others learn. Look to see that they understand how to create e-learning activities that help you achieve the learning objectives in an appropriately structured way. 

They should also be providing you with opportunities to test or assess yourself so that you can demonstrate to yourself and others that you have absorbed and understood the material.

As a starting point, you could ask the following five questions:

  • Are there clear and measurable course aims and learning objectives?
  • Is the subject content good quality? Does it use evidence to underpin it? 
  • Will the content help me to achieve the aims and objectives?
  • Is the content structured logically?
  • Does the assessment or test allow me to demonstrate that I’ve met the learning objectives?

Once you’ve found something that looks as though it meets your needs and is good quality, you’ll want to think about usability. Where possible choose something that is easy to use and works well from wherever you’re planning to access it. These days, most websites are designed to work as well on a mobile phone as they on a tablet or PC/laptop screen. When it comes to online spaces, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all – it just needs to work for you without losing its functionality.


The same points about purpose and usability apply if you’re looking for an e-portfolio to help reflect on and record your learning. Again, there are lots to choose from. Whether it’s the CSP’s own ePortfolio (free to members), www.csp.org.uk/professional-clinical/cpd-and-education/csp-eportfolio-and-learning-hub /node/796 or /eportfolio/ or one that you use at university, after you’ve determined that it does what you need it to, ask yourself whether it feels intuitive and comfortable? 

Finally, a note about data and security. Whether we’re talking e-learning or e-portfolios, websites or apps, be sure to read the terms and conditions and privacy statements. You need to know who you’re giving access to and why, as well as how your data is stored and protected.  So wherever you sit on the technophile-technophobe spectrum there’s plenty online to support what you’re learning. The prompts in the CPD activity box will get you started.  

CPD activity

  • Step 1 Before you start back at the end of September, make time to review and plan. Are there areas that need refreshing? Alternatively, look at your module content for the coming term/year. Is there any additional support that might help? 
  • Step 2 Make a plan for what you want to learn; think in terms of learning objectives.
  • Step 3 Look around for e-learning opportunities to help you refresh the topics that need consolidation or hunt out activities/modules/courses that will augment what you’re about to learn this term. If your university offers online activities to support your learning then make the most of these opportunities. If not, look further afield. Use the prompts in the article to help you find what you’re looking for.
  • Step 4 Record your learning. Again, using the prompts, find an e-portfolio that works for you and get into the habit of reflecting on how the e-learning courses you have undertaken have helped.

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