Trialling an innovative learning tool for RT students

Teaching a paper called Radiation Therapy and Oncology to RT students in their first year of study involves the students having a basic understanding of cancer, its causes, treatment options and side effects. Whilst on assessment the students can show understanding of these concepts, what I found lacking was an overall comprehension of what a cancer diagnosis and treatment might mean for a patient. After investigating a few options I decided to trial using Wikis as a learning tool. In 2014 the students used the blackboard wiki tool but this was a little clumsy and last year we used the Otago Wiki which the students will have access to during the course of their BRT.

Students are broken into groups of four and throughout the course of the year they complete tasks and create a wiki page which follows the life of a patient from diagnosis to end of treatment. Initially all students are given a brief so all their patients are the same age, for example, a 62 year old male who likes to cycle 20km a day and lives in the Wellington region. The students in their groups then go on to create a life for this patient giving him a name, a family background, a nationality, hobbies, favourite foods so in the end each group of four have a different patient to the next group. The patient then goes on to experience symptoms and is given a cancer diagnosis. The students explore on their Wikis what might be discussed at home, what he might find on the internet and what it might be like for him to have to go through radiation therapy, what he might understand of his treatment  and all the associated side effects. Each task is linked to concepts taught in class. The students could then use this patient to explain concepts in tests and in other papers.

It appeared to be a tool the students enjoyed so at the end of 2015 I conducted a study and 23/26 completed the online survey monkey questionnaire. The data to date indicate that the majority of the students (though not all of them) found it to be an effective way of understanding a patient experience. The tasks appear to be at an appropriate level but the class time allocated was too long. Students suggested that other lecturers tap into using them as well.

In summary the introduction of the Wiki is still in its infancy but in 2016 they will definitely continue with a new patient, more refined tasks and direction to the students, and more staff involvement.