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E-learning for psychiatrists

  • Elizabeth E. Hare (a1)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

E-learning is an expanding field in which many psychiatrists are active through teaching, training and pursuing their continuing professional development. Much of the benefits of e-learning are due to the implementation of educational principles rather than the medium itself. the College has invested in its own e-learning website as a service for members. However, it should not entirely replace face-to-face lectures, tutoring and mentorship.

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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
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E-learning for psychiatrists

  • Elizabeth E. Hare (a1)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.
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E-learning for psychiatrists

Pauline M Devitt, Senior Registrar in Psychiatry
12 May 2009


We read with interest the excellent editorial by Elizabeth E. Hare (Psychiatric Bulletin, 2009, 33, 81-83) on e-learning for psychiatrists. We wish to elaborate further on this important topic and highlight anothere-learning resource for psychiatrists, of which the readership may not be aware.

Mayes et al (2004) suggests ‘there are really no models of e-learningper se – only e-enhancements of models of learning’. So for e-learning to succeed, as with all learning, it needs to be based on good pedagogical principles, with good instructional design as a foundation.

In 1999 Hattie conducted a meta-analysis where he examined the relative effectiveness of various educational factors on student achievement. The top seven in terms of effect size were reinforcement (1.13), student’s prior cognitive ability (1.00), instructional quality (1.04), direct instruction (0.82), remediation/feedback (0.65) student’s disposition to learn (0.61) and class environment (0.56).

It is possible to see how e-learning may enhance ‘reinforcement’ and ‘student’s disposition to learn’. Video e-learning represents another formof e-learning which also addresses the ‘direct instruction’ and ‘class environment’ interventions above. It may be easier to learn from a ‘live’ teacher talking with credibility and passion directly to the student in a classroom, rather than reading the same words from cold written text. By way of example, the Video Journal of Psychiatry is a sponsored on-line service providing classroom-like lectures on MRCPsych curricula and CPD topics to Irish psychiatrists (

Cook et al (2008) have shown that internet–based learning is beneficial and is probably as effective as the traditional instructional methods. What is needed now is more research, comparing the efficacy of the various internet–based interventions.


Hattie (1999). ‘Influences on Student learning’. Inaugural lecture: Professor of Education. Available from

Mayes, T. et al (2004), ‘e-Learning Models desk study, Stage 2: Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models’, Available from:

Cook D et al (2008). Internet –based Learning in the Health Professions. JAMA 300(10):1181-1196.

Pauline Devitt Senior Registrar, Elissa Dooley Registrar, Coolock Mental Health Services, Cromcastle Road, Coolock, Dublin. email

Declaration of interest: None
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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E-Learning- Trainee's View

Varinderbir Singh, CT3 in Psychiatry
11 March 2009

I read with interest Hare’s editorial on E-learning for Psychiatrists. It is indeed a positive step that psychiatrists are embracing e-learning as a major source of imparting education. In the difficult times the speciality is going through, namely limited study leave allocation, scarce funding for educational and continuing professional development and acute clinical duties being taken up by non-medical staff, e-learning appears to be the only sanctity. The emergency duties, a great source of learning, has been taken over by Crisis Teams, Home Treatment Teams, Early Intervention Teams - all comprising a group of‘well-trained’ nurses, the onus being on service delivery rather than training. The introduction of CPD online is extremely important now more than ever so that the poor trainees are able to keep abreast with the current developments in the field of psychiatry in the luxury of their homes in front of their favourite gadgets and thankfully at an affordable price.

I recently conducted a survey where I formulated a questionnaire distributed to all core psychiatry trainees (CTs) at Worcestershire MentalHealth Partnership Trust. The questionnaire was piloted to investigate whether these psychiatrists use on-line resources for their learning and whether they find it easier to do the former rather than attending courses. The outcome was an overwhelming positive response in favour of on-line teaching aids, with (4/6) 67% of the respondents using e-learning actively and considered it easier because of the ease, interest and time factor involved. Lack of study leave and funding were the other major factors inspiring e-learning.

Despite all the benefits listed above there is no substitute to learning by direct patient contact and direct clinical and educational supervision. It is for this reason that the introduction of WPBA (Work Placement Based Assessments) is a welcome step taken by the college. Although it is frowned upon by almost all involved, (from personal experience), as a time consuming process albeit a valid tool of assessing competencies. (1). As this assessment (amongst others) is compulsory this ensures trainees are given an opportunity for their training to be formally assessed and appraised.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on-line has a long way to go. Even though it covers a wide range of topics ranging from neuropathology, the assessment process, physical examination, investigations, psychological, psychosocial and pharmacological managementof complex cases and other topical issues e.g. maintaining confidentiality and pertinent legislation e.g. the Mental Capacity Act, itneeds to be structured for easy browsing - a cornerstone of good web based learning (2). Allowing users to offer feedback would be a very useful method of sharing new information and recognising potential deficiencies in such modules apart from making it interactive. Video Podcasts should be developed further to provide ‘face-to-face’ and interactive teaching as ‘classroom teaching’ was favoured by 84% of respondents (results from recent survey conducted by author).


1.Chris, F., Malik, A., Lelliott, P., Bhugra, D., & Andiappan, M. (2008) Assessing psychiatric competencies: what does the literature tell us about methods of workplace-based assessment? Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2008) 14: 122-130.

2.Designing an e-learning course. An initiative of the public research centre Henri Tudor. (

3.Hare, E. (2009) E-learning for psychiatrists. Psychiatric Bulletin (2009) 33: 81-83
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Online CPD- Just the Start?

Alex E Jewkes, Foundation Year 2 Doctor
11 March 2009

May I congratulate Dr Hare and the RCPsych for their excellent onlineCPD website (1).

As a foundation doctor with a keen interest in psychiatry, I often lacked the learning opportunities and time available to full-time specialist trainees to attend courses or regional lectures. Undertaking CPD modules has provided me with a broader, richer flavour of psychiatry unavailable by other means.

Being a current student in a completely distance-learning education course with the University of Dundee, I wonder if higher awards could be provided online by the Royal College?

Obviously the demands of setting up such a system would be significant, and I note the difficulties mentioned by Hare in teaching such a patient-centred subject online. Yet for particular topics (psychiatric pharmacology for one springs to mind), online certificates/diplomas certainly seem feasible.

With ever-increasing demands on trainees' time and resources, such courses would hold significant appeal.

Often the thirst for further education is limited by practical considerations and the demands of run-through training, where there is a relative inability to take significant time out for study.

Why stop with online CPDs?

Reference- (1) E-learning for psychiatristsElizabeth E. Hare, Psychiatric Bulletin (2009) 33: 81-83.
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