Pushing the Boundaries of Education

Medicine graduates Professors Colin and Alistair Royse have taken a career pathway together armed with a big picture vision coupled with a practical approach.

They have worked together for more than 20 years with a common interest in cardiac surgery and improving education for healthcare professionals.

Always eager to innovate and acquire new skills, Colin went outside of his classic training to learn transoesophageal echocardiography (TOE) from cardiologists. He was one of the first anaesthetists to implement this technology intraoperatively in Australia.

Alistair and Colin recognised TOE would become a powerful intraoperative diagnostic tool which allowed for the live assessment of cardiac anatomy and heart performance to provide real-time feedback to the surgeon and improve patient outcomes.

“There was a huge momentum of people wanting to use this technology in cardiac surgery but there was no easy way for anaesthetists to learn”, Colin said. “To address this training gap and improve surgical outcomes we approached the University of Melbourne to support our decision to develop an independent award course.”

Alistair and Colin immediately recognised a traditional method of learning was not going to be practical, sustainable or scalable. As busy healthcare professionals themselves, they understood the barriers to learning which would be faced by their prospective students.

Armed with a vision of flexible learning which did not require face-to-face interaction, and an assessment process which could be automated, this ethos proved critical to facilitating the evolution of mobile learning.

“We set up eLearning, even though it wasn’t called that at the time, it was called distance learning, but all the principles of eLearning were there”, Alistair said.

The first postgraduate diploma echo course was launched in 2004, with contributors sourced from Australia and New Zealand.

In the first year, 70 students enrolled in the diploma course and demand for their echo courses increased year on year.

“The reason we were successful is we removed the barriers to learning and people were hungry for the knowledge”, Colin said.

In 2007, they released a nested series of clinical ultrasound courses with Certificate, Diploma and Master level courses available. Through listening and engaging with their customers, Alistair and Colin continued to evolve their platform and course structure to suit a mobile learning environment.

“The evolution to mobile learning means learning on the go, and the most likely device you will use is your phone, which means the nature of people’s learning is changing too”, Alistair said.

“Students 10 years ago were likely to complete a long tutorial in front of a computer once a day, whereas now they are likely to spend 5-10 minutes several times a day.”

In 2017, Melbourne Medical School approached Alistair and Colin to use their mobile learning delivery structure and the Mobile Learning Unit (MLU) was formed. Designed to support academics to create and deliver portable and flexible continuing professional development courses.

“Mobile learning is about the ability to learn anywhere, in your own time, at your own pace, and use any device,” Alistair said.

“A learning unit can be completed in a matter of minutes and courses can be progressed or suspended, when necessary, to balance learning with other commitments.”

The MLU’s mobile platform and project management expertise has assisted a number of passionate knowledge experts to develop successful education products. They have collaborated with international based clients, and clients based at the University of Melbourne in departments ranging from veterinary science, physiotherapy, and the Medical School.

“Clients come to us with passion and a swag of ideas and we help them to narrow it down, to obtain the right shape and balance, and turn their passion into a successful course product,” Colin said.

Their education enterprise has required a lot of persistence and conviction over the years and the Alistair and Colin believe they would not have been as successful if they didn’t have each other to lean on.

“We actually have very complementary skills sets, which work well together, and we often bounce ideas off each other and have become very good at slowing down before marching forward,” Colin said.

  • Mobile Learning Unit