Responding to COVID-19: LUNEX University’s decisions and actions to continue physiotherapy education

Article accepted

This article has been accepted for publication. Peer reviews and author responses are available at the end of the article.

Abstract

In this report we reflect on the decision-making process and actions taken by a young higher education institution to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy degree programmes. LUNEX University is unique in that it is the only higher education institute in Luxembourg to provide education in physiotherapy. The response to the global pandemic is further complicated as the majority of students commute across international borders to attend campus. We have focused on three distinct challenges LUNEX staff faced to ensure continued and quality teaching was provided: 1) Response to the country-wide and global shutdown; 2) Return to campus; and 3) Provision of clinical placements. We describe the decisions and actions to rapidly move to a blended learning format, and the strategic approach to incorporating simulated practice after restrictions were eased and a return to campus was possible. Initial observation suggests improvement in student competency in practical skills as a result of the blended learning approach. Recommendations are provided to encourage the integration of blended learning for practical and clinical degree programmes, like physiotherapy, where an emphasis is placed on simulated practice in classroom settings, underpinned by prior theoretical knowledge delivered online.

Reviews

Author: Julie Phillips
Review date: 15th October 2020
DOI: to be allocated
Permalink: Review - Responding to COVID-19: LUNEX University’s decisions and actions to continue physiotherapy education

Abstract: 6th line: maybe it would be better to say “In this report, we focus on three…” instead of “Here we focus….”

Introduction: First line: COVID-19 has initiated…..approaches in practical/clinical higher education programs instead of higher education practical/clinical programs?

Suggestion for inclusion in the background paragraph (paragraph outlining LUNEX University): It would give the reader better insight if the authors could indicate when clinical training starts in the programme? How many bachelor students? Do M students also do practical/clinical training?

The university or department should be commended for getting everything ready within a two-week period in what was quite a challenging and stressful time.

Challenge 1: Response to country-wide and global shutdown: clear description provided and easy to follow. These are very useful guidelines for other programs all over the world to follow too.

Challenge 2: Return to campus: Authors stated that teaching spaces needed to be converted for practical sessions. ??? Maybe elaborate on this? It would be interesting to highlight some of the restrictions imposed on both staff and students living outside of Luxembourg and how it was managed by the institution.

Challenge 3: What type of guidance was given with regards to return back to respective homes? Was this guidance given by the institution generally or the physiotherapy programme staff specifically?

Successes: maybe it would be useful for the reader if the authors could provide a clearer description of what is compared. Till when is the winter 2019 semester for example and when did summer 2020 semester start? That will give a clearer understanding of how the shutdown impacted on these semesters.

The areas of consideration are very interesting and it seems to be the same all over. Even in less developed countries, students faced the same kind of challenges with engagement.

The recommendations provided by the authors are very practical and valuable. The suggestion of a flipped classroom, self-study and only using face to face classes for practice and practical skills is a very valuable one that can be incorporated in many places worldwide.

Author: Heather Talberg
Review date: 31st August 2020
DOI: to be allocated
Permalink: Review - Responding to COVID-19: LUNEX University’s decisions and actions to continue physiotherapy education

Thanks for the opportunity to review this work.

I think this is a relevant piece which will be of interest and relatable back to several contexts.

The 3 key challenges were well defined, although I think broadly speaking, challenge 1 and 2 both relate to pedagogy – and should be grouped under this heading.

I think the piece can be strengthened by the following additions and discussion points.

  1. Delivery of content as a blended learning option – whilst the feasibility of converting traditionally formatted material and practical resources to online/open access content is discussed, the challenge of ensuring learning and relevant learning is not sufficiently addressed. There needs to be a distinction between the teaching (pedagogy) and the learning. Bringing students back for face to face practical revision only addresses one aspect of the curriculum. Other than final module assessment – what other ways were employed – or can be considered moving forward to a blended approach to ensure engagement, carryover of pure theoretical content into clinical scenario’s etc and ensure students felt prepared to re-enter the programme and the clinical platform.
  2. Whilst a lot of attention is focused on the teaching aspect it might be valuable to understand if any changes in the assessment were considered in line with this shift.
  3. The table presented – to show that failure in practical components reduced- is not clear. It would be helpful to label the timing of the modules differently to better understand if they were delivered and assessed pre or post-shutdown.
  4. While the authors allude to the module approach of the programme there is no information on how the modules are designed or aligned. For example, are some modules all theoretical like perhaps focused on the basic sciences or are all modules designed around core areas in physiotherapy – containing then components of both physiotherapy content and basic sciences. I felt there needed to be some distinction or reference to what modules were generically easier to move to an online format and if certain years of the programme coped better with the shift. This coping may have been simply related to better time management and planning – or did senior years understand the level they needed to engage with material online better than students just entering the programme.
  5. Was any formal feedback received from students in this period to substantiate what you saw as successes or challenges? You also note that student use of videos was surprisingly low- I’m not sure if this was of extra resources or specific practical elements. This statement is seemingly in contrast with the opening rationales around video-based learning, which implied that practical marks improved with the observation of recorded material. It makes the reader wonder then was the improvement in practical marks rather because of the smaller one on one teaching that happened on return rather than the utilization on resources/ physio tutor material in the online period.

There are some grammatical issues which need some re-looking and carefully editing of sentences in parts.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors report no declarations of interest. No funding was received for this research.

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