Coronavirus and Training

How To Run A Web Based Teaching Session For Specialty Trainees

The COVID emergency has had an immediate and dramatic effect on training for specialty registrars and core surgical trainees. In the Mersey Deanery (part of Health Education North West) we responded to this on March 15th by setting up online webinar teaching and have now run several sessions with more than 60 trainees attending. We would like to share our experience in order to facilitate this technique being adopted across the UK and Ireland. This will maintain an educational programme for our trainees during this challenging period.

This is a new way of teaching and learning for most people and therefore will take a little time to get used to for all parties, however we have found the process smoother than expected and the feedback from the trainees has been excellent.

For those delivering the session.                                                                                                                    
1.     Set up an account and ensure you have the permissions for the intended group size
2.     Start simple, with the first session delivered by one or two speakers.
3.     Set ground rules and cover these at the start of the session.
4.     Have a moderator and speaker. This will make the session run more smoothly than if the speaker also tries to moderate simultaneously.
5.     Ask the speaker to send their slides in advance to the moderator. This may allow continuity if there are technical issues.
6.     Have a trial run with the intended speakers and moderators, ideally a day or two before the session. This prevents issues with lack of familiarity or hardware from affecting the session. Practice sharing screens with presentations and switching between moderators/speakers.
7.     Send a plan for the session to allow preparation, including the relevant links and passwords well in advance. Include the ground rules.
8.     Facilitate WBA completion in the session plan. Ensure that each learning outcome can be linked to a WBA if possible.
9.     Have a backup plan. Connections can go down. Have another option ready to go.
10.  Use parallel webinars with small groups and multiple speakers once the speakers, moderators and trainees are more familiar with the process.
11.  Consider creating a bank of consultant trainers (possibly those in isolation) who can complete WBA for trainees. This prevents each speaker receiving a large number of requests. Identifying key learning objectives prior to the sessions will facilitate this.
12.  Ensure a moderator records the session so it can be archived and reviewed later by trainees.
13.  Ensure that each speaker is aware the session is recorded and therefore any content presented does not contain identifiable details or any patient information/images without appropriate consent.
14.  Ask your trainees to provide anonymised feedback in order to improve the sessions.

The key factor in delivering a successful session is the preparation beforehand. This will prevent technical difficulties from adversely affecting the learning experience. A simple 10 minute online meeting between faculty members the day before will allow these teething troubles to be sorted out.

For those ‘attending’ the session
Set up a specified time and ensure that everyone is aware that installing or accessing the software may take several minutes. Email this information a few days in advance.
Ensure that all participants have trialled their connection to broadband and that it is reliable.
Establish ground rules before the session via email and reiterate these at the start of the session. Our suggestions follow:
1.     Camera on, microphone mute. This starting position for everyone minimises interference and individuals can turn on their mics to interact. Having the camera on probably improves engagement.

2.     Remember to unmute your microphone if asked a question, then mute again!

3.     Ensure you are in a quiet area free of avoidable distractions.

4.     Ask questions on the chat function, the moderator will review these and facilitate Q&A.

5.     Phones on silent and not used if possible. Try to treat the session as if you were in front of the speaker in a normal teaching session.

6.     Do not use the device to perform other tasks during the session.

7.     Be punctual, as joining the meeting late brings up an announcement that you are entering and may be distracting.

8.     Don't speak over others, use the chat function instead.

9.     Encourage pre session preparation and completion of reflection and WBA following the session.

10.  Respect confidentiality. Do not record images or talks without permission. Do not distribute talks without permission.

We have used the GoToMeeting platform. This allows a large number of users to be visible on screen at one time even if they are not speaking. The Zoom platform has similar functionality. Microsoft Teams allows only 4 people to be visible on screen at one time. We have no conflicts of interest to disclose in this regard.

For further information please contact:

We would be happy to accommodate any requests to join a session as an observer.

J Banks, V Bhalaik, L Hadfield-Law, D Hawkes, G Jackson, B Narayan, N Peterson, L Thornton, R Walton

Example Webinar

Below are extracts from our recent Webinar "Mersey Basic Science Round Robin".

In this 15 minute segment Mr Phil Brown (ST8) explains microbiology for the FRCS exam!

Loss of Training Opportunities

A form for Mersey trainees to record loss of training opportunities has kindly been created by Mr David Bodansky.

We kindly request that you update this daily to keep a contemporaneous record of lost training opportunities.

You will each receive a collated document of all of your lost training opportunities prior to ARCP or on request.

Weekly summaries are given below.