Tablets in Clinical Education

Posted on 16 December 2013, 10:28
Last updated 16 December 2013, 12:32

These are my notes and reflections from an HEA event that took place at the Royal Veterinary College near London, in December 2013.

Twitter Hashtag #tabvet13


Tim Cappelli of Manchester Medical School (MMS) gave an excellent keynote on their experiences in introducing iPads to medical students.

The project came about as result of poor nss results after Manchester took bottom place in the student satisfaction league table. Institutional funds were made available to give all 460 year 4 medical students an iPad in Dec 2011, with the view that there was nothing to lose by trying something new.

Not surprisingly, there were lot lots of initial complaints from 5th year students who didn't get an iPad!

The project initially planned for the students to give the devices back when they graduated but allow to buy them for nominal amount, however it was eventually realised that this wasn't practical as they would need to be sold fit for purpose, PAT tested and the institution would be liable for next 6 years, so in the end they were give away free.

MDM (mobile device management) software was installed to have some level of remote security and control. This allowed the school to install specific content and to remote wipe tablets if needed but students were able to personalise and add their own apps and content. MDM was also set to remote lock device if no interaction for 5 minutes (therefore making them more secure) and they were pre-configured with Virtual Private Networks (VPN), and had the student personal timetable fed direct to the iPad calendar.

Reference was made to a Hull University study of tablets in Scottish schools, highlighting the finding that giving tablets for in-class sessions then taking them back doesn't work  - the students need need ownership and to be able to personalise how they use the devices. The Hull study can be found here:

Results and feedback

  • 70% reduction in printing
  • Many students reported that Notability & Evernote were great apps to make smart lecture notes that could be cross-referenced and media rich, and Dropbox ideal for sharing.
  • Over past 2 years MMS moved from online access to textbooks to 48 hour download of books from Elsevier.
  • Using iPad increased productive use of time check email and compare symptoms with apps while waiting for consultant or during breaks - self directed.
  • 70℅ students experienced positive change in way knowledge and experience shared due to use of iPads

Copyright infringement is a huge risk especially when sharing published content and journal articles. Apple let users copy and share such content via apps but say the users are responsible and liable. From comments made during the presentation staff seem rather laid back about this issue which suggests some digital responsibility training is needed for both students and staff. Terry McAndrew of JISC Techdis suggested as a useful resource on educational copyright.

40℅ of the Manchester students already had tablets but School have chosen to support only the iPad tablet. MMS's justification in bucking the trend towards 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) was that a single platform is easier to manage from the institutional view, and by giving every student the same device it promoted inclusion and equality in a collaborative community, with greatly increased opportunities for shared resources resulting from student generated content. Students scavenge information and tag to make it searchable and contextual, and use Evernote's OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature to scan handwritten content and convert to digital text (if the app can read the individual's handwriting).

MMS are proposing to give all 1st and 2nd year students a device but none for clinical teaching staff as they should be able to afford own. Staff teaching in pre clinical years (separate department) have them though because their department is separately funded!


Implementation Session

The breakout workshop was asked to consider some key issues in implementing the use of tablets:

  • Ownership.  
  • Security. 
  • Resources.  
  • Support.

There were some interesting points raised during the discussions in this session. I'm hoping that the presentations from the session will be shared soon, and I'll then add further details here about the areas to consider for implementation.

WiFi access is a big one - as institutions go down the route of encouraging students to use internet enabled devices they MUST at the same time invest in the network infastructure to ensure that those devices will work within lecture and study spaces at least - having 50 (or 150) students attempt to access resources or interact clicker style using tablets, only to find that the bandwidth grinds to a halt when the 4th person logs on will only result in negative feedback and any potential gains by giving the students devices will be lost as they become regarded as expensive doorstops.

Social Media and Digital Responsibility is another area for consideration. At my previous institution I introduced a new Social Media Policy, aimed at encouraging responsible use of social media for professional and learning purposes. This was kept as simple as possible, though inevitably legal jargon was forced into the policy. The central tenet, however, was "If what you are about to post would upset your mother, boss or friends, think again"

Connectivity in NHS trusts was resolved as result of leverage due to numbers of students - hospitals added an extra network only available to students.

Students didn't use how to videos and guides - they relied on each other.

iPad simple to setup and use but Nexus and similar android devices probably the same. It was interesting to hear so many people use iPad as a synonymn for tablet - for which I can only congratulate the Apple Marketing division, but it certainly isn't the case that the iPad is the only possiblity - just the most hyped (and most expensive).


Using Tablets in Veterinary Education Nick Short RVC

Mobile Computing
In just 10 years have progressed through considerations for laptops to tablets to mobiles Operating systems issues eg inability to play flash on some devices after substantial investment in developing flash based content Student IT survey almost all use windows PC at home but on the move laptop vs iPad or other device much closer.

Anatomy specimen pots have qr codes - when scanned takes you to video about the subject in context. Would be easy to do using our specimens and camtasia

Tablet pilot
63 devices for vet nurses before looking at wider rollout. After researching the available options they chose to go with Windows devices - Dell Latitude 10, and also gave them to the staff. The Windows tablet was chosen for several reasons, but the essentials were that it was compatible with institutional computers, could run flash content, and had office software, which allowed the students to maximise the study-related functionality of the devices.

Method - very complex series of steps were taken in th eimnplementation of the rollout, starting with Identify Device } supplier } order } familiarisation } build testing } deploy & customise } initial testing } feedback }  hardware order for students } software build } and more.

Nick also mentioned a twitter feed that is used by students to share useful links - worth a look @rvc_elearning

Lessons from tablet pilot

  • Access WiFi key
  • Interactive video & images valued
  • Ebooks - working on getting more interactive from publishing
  • Future OER (sharing) and device agnostic mobile friendly content


Short Sessions

Using flash on mobile
There are issues for users who want to watch/interact with flash content on iPads and other mobile devices. Note that although Android devices no longer come with flash player installed it is still available and works on devices such as Nexus 7, but flash based content is definately in decline - this is an issue for legacy resources built over the past decade. Google Swifi is oe of th esoftware tools available to convert swf to html5 -

Library eBook
Onshelf qr codes. Knew I was onto something when suggested that at RCS a couple of years ago. RVC are using them. Have shelf markers in correct context in library students can scan to access eBook. Currently have 100 titles. Evaluation suggested they needed to advertise and inform what qr book blocks were for as some students were taking the 'book block' to the desk to checkout (despite QR codes being used at RVC for past couple of years).

iPads as learning resources
Comparison of laptop vs tablet as education device. Student oriented, with input from Elsevier as eBook publisher. The ebooks are useful as access but if going to read hard copy preferred as the eBooks were very flat without interaction. eBook are charged at the same price as hard copy (£100 a book) which seems outrageous to me as a substantial cost should be in printing and distribution, so the pricing model is grossly unfair to those opting for the eBook which has fewer costs for the publisher!

Students like iPad but want their laptop as more versatile.

One of the concluding remarks made just before I slipped out of the conference for the 6+ hour journey home was that HEE / HEA have a focus on TEL that will see an expansion of resources for vet & human medicine next year.

Profile information

Gordon McLeod's profile picture

I am the eLearning & Innovation Officer for the College of Arts, advising on Technology Enhanced Learning & Teaching at strategic and local levels, facilitating project activity, and providing specialist support to the 4 Schools of the CoA on Digital Learning, Moodle, Mahara portfolio, and all aspects of eLearning, online assessment and learner engagement.

Before taking up this role I was the Learning Technologist for the School of Veterinary Medicine for 7 years, transforming curriculum delivery into a fully blended interactive syllabus, and supporting staff and students develop confidence in using multimedia, eLearning and technology, with a particular focus on Moodle and Mahara. Previously I was the Learning Technologist for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, encouraging use of technology, digital and social media within performing arts education.

My past career includes roles as Learning Innovation Officer at Skills Development Scotland and learndirect scotland, managing the national learning bytes online platform, leading on EQUAL funded partnership projects, and delivering services to enhance learning opportunities nationally, Course Manager and Lecturer roles in Life Sciences within FE/HE institutions in England, and several years conducting research in applied animal behaviour and welfare, with a particular focus on zoo and exotic animals.

My core job interests include service design, accessibility and usability, learner engagement and creative approaches, gamification, eLearning development, and instructional design.

Contact Details:
Gordon McLeod | eLearning & Innovation Officer

College of Arts | University of Glasgow | 6 University Gardens | Glasgow G12 8QQ