An inaugural workshop on distance education at Monash Malaysia

A collaboration between three countries brings tele-learning of practical skills to rural areas to improve women’s healthcare delivery.

Remember William Shatner’s opening speech at the beginning of every episode of Star Trek about exploring new worlds, and to boldly go where no man has gone before? Well, Monash Malaysia may not have a spaceship that can travel at light speed, but it has explored and boldly established a tele-learning  program in collaboration with the Warwick Medical School, United Kingdom, led by Professor Peter Abrahams and Dr Richard Tunstall, and Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU) and Burapha University in Thailand to improve women’s healthcare delivery through distant continuing skills education  for nursing and healthcare workers in remote sites in Malaysia and Thailand.

Monash’s first Tele-Learning of Community Health Skills (TELCOHS) workshop was conducted on 6 January 2016 by academic staff from the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences (JCSMHS), Associate Professor Dr Arkendu Sen, Associate Professor Dr Lakshmi Selvaratnam, and Dr P.V. Lingham  alongside Associate Professor Khatijah Lim Abdullah, Head of Nursing at University of Malaya and collaborators from Thailand; Associate Professor Boontip Siritarungsri, from the School of Nursing in STOU and Associate Professor Prasert Meeratana, Dean and Assistant Professor Duangrudee Cherdwongcharoensuk  from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences at Burapha University.

Funded by the EU sponsored Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) grant and as part of the Millenium Development Goals, TELCOHS’s aim is to engage and empower participants to develop competencies in basic procedural skills in perinatal care required for nursing and Middle Level Community Health  Workers (MLHWs). Another objective of the tele-learning program is to evaluate the impact of a TELCOHS workshop employing a technology-enhanced tele-classroom for active skills distance training involving nurses and MLHWs.

Using parallel video conferencing tools that are networked through the collaborators of the project - Malaysian Research & Education Network (MYREN) as well as cloud based collaborative tools (ZOOM), the inaugural workshop between MAPEL Lab and STOU went on without a hitch. This has been made possible  due to extensive preparations in logistics, setting up and trialling carried out by the collaborators with full support of the technical and information technology services teams from JCSMHS/Monash Malaysia and STOU.

The high resolution broadcast enabled facilitators and expert resource persons in the MAPEL Lab to watch live practical skills performed by the remote participants on mannequins, and to give their feedback without any hindrance. As a new frontier, the TELCOHS Workshop marks the first distance education  workshop conducted by Monash Malaysia on practical skills training for healthcare workers and much appreciated by both trainee and experienced nursing participants.