Taking flexibility in education to new levels

Dr Marina Skiba and Dr Simone Spark teaching Clinical Trial FundamentalsSchool clinical trials experts have led a trailblazing new short course, the School’s first stackable, micro-credentialed short course.

Clinical Trials Fundamentals was developed by clinical trials and research ethics specialists Dr Simone Spark and Dr Marina Skiba. Offered initially in November 2021, the course is now entering the second round of intakes, and the pair are delighted with the ongoing interest, and the real-world results for their students.

Dr Skiba says, “We’ve already been contacted by a number of students who have told us the course has helped them secure clinical trial jobs they believed were previously out of their reach. So we’re thrilled with the employability the course is providing.”

The clinical trial field is booming across both private companies and medical research organisations. Research by MTPConnect showed that in 2019, one in five clinical trials commenced in Australia took place at the Alfred Precinct.

The course is offered in three parts. Part 1 is a self-guided online module conveying foundational knowledge that every clinical trialist should know. It’s a mandatory pre-requirement for the further modules, but also serves as an exit point in its own right. For those interested in a deeper dive, Part 2 is a three-day face-to-face/Zoom masterclass, taking a more in-depth look into the concepts presented in Part 1, and fostering discussion and problem solving. Part 3 is a set of assessment tasks for those wishing to demonstrate competency.

The creation of such a flexible course presented a number of headaches for the duo. High among them was how to explain and market the various pathways students could follow, and how the course articulates into further study opportunities.

Dr Skiba says, “It took us a couple of attempts to clearly distil and present the various options, and succinctly explain the specific benefits and points of difference for each component. We initially faced some enquiries from interested students about things we thought we’d explained fairly well, and realized we needed to tweak things. We engaged with our School Communications Manager, and our Education Designer and made some improvements that are now reflected in all of our resources and website. We think it’s working much better now.”

The micro-credentialing aspect of the course is also unique. Graduates of Part 3 obtain six credit points, the equivalent of a Unit in a Masters program. Dr Spark says, “Micro-credentialing is a great way to provide variety to current Masters students who can take this as a Unit, and to allow others in the healthcare and research community to test the waters, if they are considering further study but aren’t quite ready to commit.”

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