Despite being commonly prescribed, opioids account for more reported drug errors than any other high-risk medication (Alanazi et al, 2016). They represent a significant patient safety and public health issue.
A new free online course from Newcastle University will help healthcare professionals increase their knowledge of the basic pharmacology of opioids so they are better able to prescribe opioids safely and effectively in the treatment of cancer-related pain.
Opioid Analgesics: Treating Pain in People with Cancerstarts on 29 July and is designed to increase safe prescribing and monitoring practice for this patient group. This three week course covers the pharmacology of opioids, principles for safe prescribing, the rationale for prescribing opioids to treat cancer pain and the proactive management of adverse events.
This course is for qualified healthcare professionals who prescribe opioid drugs and/or care for patients who are taking opioids anywhere in the world. It will be of particular use to general practitioners, palliative care specialists, acute hospital practitioners (surgical and medical disciplines), pharmacists and those with an interest in pain management, including medical and non-medical prescribers and those professionals involved in monitoring and supervision of opioid prescribing.
Opioid Analgesics: Treating Pain in People with Cancer is led by Dr Victoria Hewitt and Dr Paul Coulter. Vicky is a Specialist Palliative Care Physician and Curriculum Director for Masters programmes in Oncology and Palliative Care at Newcastle University, and has a special interest in safe medicines management at end of life. She has been blogging about the course here. Paul is a Consultant in Palliative Medicine, based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.
“I believe strongly that we have a moral obligation to use open courses to widen access to medical education and improve patient outcomes. Lack of education for prescribers has been recognised as contributing to the so-called “opioid crisis” and was highlighted by the Gosport War Memorial inquiry. Despite this, few courses about opioids are currently available outside the field of specialist addiction services.
This MOOC has been designed to address this unmet educational need and expands Newcastle Unversity’s profile within the global cancer and palliative care communities, positioning it as a key influencer of national and international opioid-prescribing agendas”. Dr Victoria Hewitt
I was delighted to be asked to represent one of three UK FutureLearnpartner institutions at the first FutureLearn Asia Pacific Partner Forum, held in Shanghai, 24 & 25 November 2015.
Partner Forums are one of the things that make working with the FutureLearn partnership so useful. A chance to meet others a few times a year who are facing the same challenges, providing regular opportunities to share experiences and learn from each other, as well as influence the development of the platform. And we do really influence the development of the platform. Previously Partner Forums have happened in London, but with recent expansions in the Asia Pacific partnership, an inaugural Forum was planned in Shanghai, aiming to replicate meetings in the UK, but for Asia Pacific partners.
I set off to meet up in Shanghai with Kate Dickens, Project Lead for FutureLearn from University of Southampton, Joanna Stroud, Project Lead for FutureLearn from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, and 4 of his staff. We took part in a very well organised and intensive two day forum with around 70 representatives from HEIs and specialist organisations based in the Asia Pacific region, from countries including Australia, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea, as well as several Chinese institutions and representatives from the British Council and Consulate.
In a packed two days, as well as getting to know each other, we got to know a bit about how the approaches developed within UK and European FutureLearn partners were being received by more recent Asia Pacific partners, and had the opportunity to share with each other some of the things we have learned in our time developing and delivering free online courses with FutureLearn.
FutureLearn’s mantra for free online courses, which appears at the beginning of nearly every presentation, is to ‘Tell stories, provoke conversation and celebrate success’.
As Newcastle University courses have consistently succeeded in achieving higher than average engagement with our courses, I was asked to present a session on Effective Storytelling in Newcastle’s free online courses, and to sit on a panel discussing approaches to course development and sharing top tips.
For the panel session, which took place on the morning of day 2, I was on the stage with Kate Dickens from University of Southampton, David Major, Learning Technologist from FutureLearn, and Professor Hongling Zhang from Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Lead Educator on the Intercultural Communication free online course. The session was facilitated by Kate Sandars, Partnership Manager from FutureLearn and was based on questions from the floor, which were many, and discussion around them, which was lively. The session was very much about the practical aspects of developing and delivering free online courses, and about how this aligns with institutional strategy. The panel session overran and there was much continued discussion in the following tea break.
Just before lunch on day 2 I presented a half hour slot on ‘Effective Storytelling’ in our free online courses at Newcastle University. I was pleased to be asked to do this session, as our courses consistently achieve higher than the FutureLearn average for social learning (engagement of learners with discussion and comments), and we also achieve higher than the average FutureLearn full participation rate (the nearest metric we have to ‘course completion’) – with our Ageing Well: Falls course having the highest full participation rate of any FutureLearn course to date, at 57% of those who started the course.
This indicates to us that there is something about our approach to working with teams of educators on developing our courses which works. Our focus on learning design is crucial to course success and we do focus on it a lot, right from course conception to delivery.
Why is storytelling so important? Well I think that the telling stories analogy is a great one for us to focus on. It enables us to talk about course creation in a different way, it encourages us to examine what is special about storytelling and storytellers. Why do stories work? Why are they compelling? What qualities to they have which are different to campus based courses? How can we replicate some of that in free online courses? And why is making courses online so different to making campus based programmes?
The session went down really well, and there was further lively discussion afterwards over a delicious lunch with colleagues from Monash University, the University of Malaya, RMIT, Fudan University, SISU and others.
An afternoon tea reception hosted by the British Council ended the Forum, which was an amazing privilege to be asked to attend, and which profiled the work of the University and its approach to online course development which has generated much interest from Asia Pacific HEIs. We look forward to following up with these contacts over the coming weeks. Many thanks go to Simon Nelson and his team at FutureLearn for asking us to represent established partners, for giving us the opportunity to profile our work and courses in the Asia Pacific region, and for looking after us so well in Shanghai.