Background: There are growing reasons to use both information and communication functions of learning technologies as part of clinical education, but the literature offers few accounts of such implementations or evaluations of their impact. This paper details the process of implementing a blend of online and face-to-face learning and teaching in a clinical education setting and it reports on the educational impact of this innovation.
Methods: This study designed an online community to complement a series of on-site workshops and monitored its use over a semester. Quantitative and qualitative data recording 43 final-year medical students' and 13 clinical educators' experiences with this blended approach to learning and teaching were analysed using access, adoption and quality criteria as measures of impact.
Results: The introduction of the online community produced high student ratings of the quality of learning and teaching and it produced student academic results that were equivalent to those from face-to-face-only learning and teaching. Staff had mixed views about using blended learning.
Conclusions: Projects such as this take skilled effort and time. Strong incentives are required to encourage clinical staff and students to use a new mode of communication. A more synchronous or multi-channel communication feedback system might stimulate increased adoption. Cultural change in clinical teaching is also required before clinical education can benefit more widely from initiatives such as this.