Objective: To evaluate the implementation of a clinical pathology and clinical skills course designed for delivery at several distributed sites, including a mandatory eight-week placement in small remote communities.
Design: All students in the first cohort for the course were invited to complete questionnaires rating the value of their learning experiences and the impact of relying on resources delivered by information technology. Forty-one of 63 students responded.
Results: Formal lectures and resources provided at the main campus were most highly valued by the students. Patient presentations in the rural and remote communities were better examples of clinical pathology than those encountered in urban hospitals, and the rural tutors were regarded very highly for their support of student learning. Delivery of resource materials in remote sites was not as successful as planned, due to difficulties with bandwidth and download speeds. Student academic performance appeared unrelated to location of learning.
Conclusion: Students were able to achieve learning objectives for the course, relying on a richer patient mix, campus-based core sessions and information technology-based resources. Curriculum planners should be encouraged to further devolve learning in traditionally campus-based content to rural and remote communities, but only after careful planning and resource allocation to support learning in rural teaching sites.