Bringing Health Professions Educators Together During a Global Pandemic

In this Bridging the Distance Contest entry, Dr. Kalyani Premkumar describes the launching of the Masters of Health Professions Education program. She describes leveraging the strengths of online course delivery and collaborating with on-campus support units, the challenges of delivering courses to an international cohort of students from all around the world and showcases the use of ePoster technology and ePortfolios for online assessment. Dr. Premkumar concludes the article by outlining an impressive variety publications and presentations that resulted from their program launch and shares her lessons learned and some experience-based recommendations.

By Dr. Kalyani Premkumar, Professor, Department of Community Health & Epidemiology, College of Medicine, USask.

The Master of Health Professions Education program, which included Dr. Kalyani Premkumar (KP) as Lead, MEd (Health Professions), College of Medicine, was launched by the College of Education in September 2020 at the University of Saskatchewan. The program began with two courses (Developer & Instructor: KP) offered in the first term: ‘Technology and Simulation in teaching and learning’ and ‘Teaching Methodologies: Facilitating Learning Through Teaching’.

Learners came into the program from varied health professions backgrounds with varying degrees of expertise & experience in their respective fields. The program objective is to train Health Professionals from medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, rehabilitation science, veterinary medicine, kinesiology, and pharmacy & nutrition for education and leadership roles in their respective areas.

Teaching and learning/Activities conducted/Tools used

This program offered in Fall 2020, was in a purely online format due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The University was offering courses only through remote delivery. While there persists considerable debate on the benefits of in-person sessions vs virtual ones, we were able to leverage several strengths of remote course delivery to the benefit of our learners. These may not have been possible with in-person delivery.

The course included learners from different countries and time zones, with varying degrees of internet connectivity. The courses therefore incorporated asynchronous sessions, and Panopto recordings and online multimedia resources to make the material accessible to all learners. The instructor was able to invite global experts as guest speakers to the virtual classroom, which would have been a lot more cumbersome to implement in-person. Furthermore, collaboration with other colleges and units at the University such as the Distance Education Unit (DEU) was much smoother through online delivery.

The class assessments too were designed to suit remote delivery. In fact, it went as far as to train learners in using new platforms and tools to enhance their teaching and learning for online course delivery. A case in point was the use of ePoster as a teaching and learning tool.

ePosters, in contrast to traditional posters, are interactive platforms that accommodate a range of multimedia materials such as images, audio clips, videos, presentations, social media feed, audio- books, articles etc. The course “Technology and Simulation in Teaching and Learning” required learners to create and present an ePoster to their peers in synchronous sessions using webconferencing platforms. This activity introduced the learners to ePoster technology, and also gave them hands-on practice in utilizing it as a tool for teaching and learning.

Other assessments included the use of ePortfolio, the creation of an open text chapter in small groups using WordPress, podcast creation, doing peer reviews using rubrics and participation in multiple discussion forums. ePortfolios were introduced as a platform for students, to be used throughout the program for compiling products created in various courses and their own reflections.

Expected and unexpected outcomes

The delivery of the two courses in Term 1 produced several positive expected and unexpected outcomes. Firstly, it created deliverables such as a book compiling the contributions of learners to the course1. Next, the ePosters created by learners may be used as examples for learners in future iterations of this course, and also for teaching in the respective fields of the learners.

An additional outcome was a research study on ePosters for classroom assessment. It included a survey using SurveyMonkey and one-on-one semi-structured interviews with the learners about their experience with the ePoster assessment. These conversations contributed towards the research data, but also proved to be an effective exercise in soliciting detailed feedback from learners, which would have otherwise been received via short-form answers on online questionnaires. The research informed the publication of an article Twelve tips for using ePosters as an active learning strategy2 that guides instructors on the use of ePosters for classroom assessments. Preliminary results from the study were presented at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) 2021 Virtual conference3 and at the University during the Research Innovation and Scholarship in Education (RISE) conference4

A presentation relating to ePortfolio was made in the Scholarship for Teaching and Learning (SoTL) conference5. In addition, a workshop on the role of ePortfolios in health professions education was facilitated in the AMEE conference. A manuscript with the final results from the ePoster study is in the works.

Lessons learned/Recommendations

  • Adopt a growth mindset and be open to incorporating new technology into your teaching and learning process. Expect a learning curve for the instructors and learners, and leverage suitable on-campus supports from IT, DEU, etc.
  • Make technological considerations ahead of time. Plan for backup activities in case you run into technical difficulties and have a personnel or protocol available for the duration of the class to help with troubleshooting.
  • Focus on the process, not the content.
  • Balance the power differential: invite learners to share what they bring to the table, as several adult learners bring years of expertise.
  • Plan to showcase the work done by learners.


The Masters of Health Professions Education program brought practitioners from varied disciplines together as learners. The remote delivery in Fall 2020 expanded the location of our learners to anywhere in the world. The training and lived experiences of the learners made the teaching and learning of the courses richer.


  1. Instructional Strategies in health professions education.
  2. Kalyani Premkumar, Ibraheem Othman & Harini Aiyer (2021) Twelve tips for using ePosters as an active learning strategy, Medical Teacher, DOI: 1080/0142159X.2021.1966402
  3. Association for Medical Education in Europe 2021 conference.
  5. Incorporating Longitudinal ePortfolios into a Health Professions Education Program – Kalyani Premkumar, Dept. of Community Health & Epidemiology, College of Medicine, with Harini Aiyer & Julie Maier. SoTL conference. It’s Been So(TL) Long: A Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Event. Hosted by The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning Thursday, August 19, 2021
  6. Kalyani Premkumar & Ken Masters. The role of eportfolios in health professions education AMEE 2021 Conference Workshop.
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