Improving Clinical Research Training: New UCSF-CTSI Online Course Doubles as Research Study

Improving Clinical Research Training: New UCSF-CTSI Online Course Doubles as Res

By Kate Rauch

At any time and from anywhere, students and residents can now learn how to write a professional-level, peer-reviewed research protocol, from idea to shopping for funding. Application deadline is July 22, 2011.

While online learning is not a new idea, there are a few things that make this online course unique, said Chris Garrett, MAED, online learning consultant for UCSF's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

  • It is the first clinical research online course offered during the same weeks as classroom-based options (August 1 – September 2), and with the same instructors, but online course students can "attend" at their convenience 24/7.
  • Beyond being open to students from all UCSF schools, this course could be available to anyone who meets the prerequisites and with an internet connection.
  • Doubling as a research study, this class will help assess the effectiveness of online learning.
  • The online class is being offered through Moodle, an open source web-based virtual learning environment which features a social media space where students can network with each other, study together, and compare notes,” Garrett said. "It's like if students were taking a break and standing in the hall together."
  • The web course “concierge”, Chris Garrett, will be available throughout the course as a guide for both learners and faculty.

"Online learning is rapidly becoming the new normal for higher education," said CTSI co-director Deborah Grady, MD, MHP. "If we are going to continue to attract the best and the brightest students, we need to recognize and respond to their evolving learning approaches."

To gauge the effectiveness the online learning experience, CTSI is conducting a study comparing the educational outcomes of the classroom and cyber courses, which share identical curriculum.

This first session of the online class will enroll 20 students. Another 20 students will be randomly selected from the in-class courses. The comparison will be based on the National Institutes for Health (NIH) scale for research protocols, Garrett said. "We'll be able to see if the quality of the online protocol was as-good or better than the other."

CTSI at UCSF is a member of the national, NIH-funded CTSA network focusing on accelerating research to improve health. The online course "Designing Clinical Research for Residents and Students" is among a wide range of CTSI resources and services that support research at every stage.