Putting learning into practice

Our January cohort of students have completed their Postgraduate Certificate modules, and our next cohort is yet to start in September, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at what our students think about the course and how they’ve been putting their learning into practice. This blog uses a lot of the information presented by our Module Leads during a recent ‘Learning and teaching conference’ hosted by the University of Worcester where they looked at ‘What can FULLY online learning teach us?’ Thanks to the team for allowing us to use some of their images.

Module Lead Teresa Atkinson presenting at the conference

Being an online course

Although our Postgraduate Certificate is a fully online programme, our Module Leads ensure that there are plenty of ways to engage students including regular live Collaborate seminars to prompt group discussions, and interactive activities, videos, podcasts and discussion boards. In fact, online teaching appears to suit the different types of students we attract who may not otherwise be able to study with us.

Image showing four overlapping circles representing four groups of students: professionals in practice, those returning to education, those based across the UK, international students

It could be easy to assume that with our modules being online, students don’t get an opportunity to get to know each other or feel part of the group. Actually, what we’re hearing is that the modules work very well online:

Image showing two quotes from students. "Although the course is online, there are opportunities to meet with others in online tutorials, and to contribute to online discussions where we can learn from others." "Found this module to be very user friendly and the input from tutors has been amazing, always felt supported and encouraged. It created a friendly, welcoming atmosphere even through virtual collaboration sessions."

Grounded in research

It’s important to us that our modules are based on research conducted by the Association for Dementia Studies, and each module incorporates a variety of research as indicated below.

Image showing research in different modules, e.g. Namaste Care on the Advanced dementia module

Involving people affected by dementia

A key part of our modules is getting input from a variety of people, including people with dementia and their family carers. Being able to hear directly from these ‘experts by experience’ has had a positive and powerful effect on our students.

Image showing quotes from students: "The biggest value for me is in the teachers of this module. We hear rich insights from people whose lived experience involves dementia every day" "I love that this module really does put the person living with dementia at the heart of it and their voice is coming through loud and clear"

What have students done?

“For me, this module has helped expand the framework for person centred care. It has really provided an insight to an element that is key to unlocking task orientated care and really embedding change. It highlights the changes needed in practise and the thinking required if we are going to move dementia care forward to where it should be.”

Here are a few examples of the impact that our Postgraduate Certificate is having for our students:

  • One student is rolling out ‘FITS into Practice’ across all Brunel Care sites, as well as carrying out work around Namaste Care.
Image showing a tweet about the FITS work being done at Brunel Care
  • Another student was able to deliver the FITS training to 260+ Care UK staff despite the pandemic, including developing several Dementia Care Coaches to help disseminate their knowledge, and encouraging the use of Namaste Care. Their learning from the PGCert helped them to consider how changes are introduced in care homes and has made it possible to change how staff approach dementia care.
  • A former student has used their learning as the springboard to raise dementia awareness in Zambia and Zimbabwe
  • A recent student has been in a position to promote the implementation and use of pain assessment tools across the Black Country after learning about their importance on one of our modules.
  • You can also hear from a former student about their experience of the Postgraduate Certificate here.
Quote from student: "The module has challenged my perceptions and has enabled me to reflect on my experiences and skills. My learning has been especially valuable in providing opportunities to consider how it can be applied in my practice to influence positive change"

We’ve had the privilege of seeing the full cycle on our modules. Our research has fed into our online teaching, which in turn has influenced the practice of our students and is feeding into and inspiring new research opportunities.

Image showing three circles for research, education and practice, with arrows between them to indicate an ongoing cycle.

Wider impact and transferable skills

In addition to directly influencing practice, students have found that our modules have provided them with a positive challenge – especially if they have been away from academia for a while – and transferable skills that they can use in other areas of their lives.

Image showing two quotes: "I also just really enjoyed using the 'academic' part of my brain again and getting outside my comfort zone with the course work and essay writing" "what I take away from this course is so applicable in many fields - mostly it is the power of empathy, the need to centralise our actions around the voices/needs/wants of those with lived experience, and the incredible power we all can have as leaders at any level, and the importance of deeply understanding issues from a range of perspectives in order to make valuable change"

Unexpected impact

One particular impact arising from the modules was very unexpected. During one module we include the experiences of a lady with dementia who enjoys walking challenges but needs support around the planning and organisational aspects. One of our students subsequently volunteered to help provide some of this support to enable her to undertake a 100km walk along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The outcome? Team Sunflower absolutely smashed it and in the process raised over £1000 for the National Brain Appeal and their work around rarer dementia!! We’re obviously not taking credit for this, but it’s fabulous to think that we had even a tiny part to play in something so amazing.

Image of a slide showing a couple of photos of Team Sunflower on their walk

And finally…

We couldn’t get through this blog without a plug for our Postgraduate Certificate modules starting in September. Hopefully what you’ve seen here gives you a good feel for what we do and, as the below indicates, online learning has a lot going for it and never stands still. If you’d like to find out more, please visit our website or get in touch.

Image of a slide showing what fully online learning can teach us, such as 'being a part of an online programme doesn't mean you are apart from the programme, tutors or peer students' and 'we are learners too! We change, we adapt, we evolve!'

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

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