Trainees Online was launched In 2014 and is the online learning resource to support trainee psychiatrists in preparing for MRCPsych Paper A examination. There are over 50 modules on Basic Sciences.
The content of the learning modules is screened by the College Examinations Panels, to ensure that material meets the expectations of the relevant Membership Examinations. It should be noted that modules include specific ‘Key Reading’ lists, and an examination-level understanding of a given topic should only be expected in association with this further reading.
TrOn modules have been mapped to the MRCPsych syllabus, 1-5 (inclusive). You can access this here: TrOn mapping.
TrOn is free to access for anyone registered with the College as a trainee, member, affiliate, Student Associate or Foundation Doctor Associate – just log in with your College details to access the modules. If you are an institutional subscriber, you will need to log in with a College account, not via OpenAthens.
If you are not registered with the College you will need to subscribe to TrOn via the Subscribe page.
Trainees Online (TrOn) is an online learning resource that aims to support learners who are preparing for the MRCPsych. It is a College publication that is being created to supplement existing provisions such as contact with clinical and education supervisors, teaching by senior staff in mental health services, and attendance at the local MRCPsych course.
This reliable revision aid, produced by higher specialist trainees and junior consultants who have recent knowledge of the examinations themselves, is endorsed by the College and available to anyone registered with the College. Modules covering the whole of the basic sciences syllabus are currently in production. Each module includes three items of ‘Key Reading’; the module content plus this added reading is judged to be sufficient coverage for the purposes of the Membership exams.
TrOn offers unique alignment with the MRCPsych syllabus, having been developed in consultation with the College Examinations Department. The Dean and the Chief Examiner of the College have both been crucial to TrOn and influence it directly through the Advisory Board with additional input from trainees and other College stakeholders.
Trainees are provided with information about TrOn directly from the College, as well as through publicity in the BJPsych and at events such as the International Congress. We also hope that trainers, course leaders and tutors will encourage trainees to consider using this learning resource when preparing for the MRCPsych.
On the following pages there are suggestions for how you might use TrOn in both training and teaching, if you are:
Clinical and educational supervisors
There are several ways in which TrOn can be harnessed to support the supervision process:
- modules can be used to guide trainees preparing for membership examinations and considered alongside the MRCPsych syllabus
- trainees can document learning as they progress through modules, providing material for discussion
- learning in clinical environments can be aligned with coverage of the syllabus, helping trainees to link theory with practice and scaffold knowledge as it develops.
We hope that trainers will encourage trainees to consider using this learning resource when preparing for the MRCPsych.
MRCPsych course leaders and tutors
Trainees Online (TrOn) is a useful resource for MRCPsych course organisers and tutors as well as trainees.
All modules are written by Higher Trainees with successful experience of the exams. Their content is tailored carefully to the needs of Pre-membership Trainees and aligned closely to the MRCPsych syllabus. TrOn modules are a great way of keeping up-to-date with the requirements and expectations of the syllabus, and of getting an insight into how trainees learn for the exams.
TrOn modules are accessible to anyone registered with the College. The login details for TrOn are the same as College user details.
If you are a course tutor but not a College member, or a course organiser who would like your tutors to have access to the resource, please get in touch. We will be very happy to arrange access.
Core psychiatry course facilitators
Trainees Online (TrOn) is a great resource for helping trainees prepare for exams independently but it also has the potential to transform the teaching and delivery of your core psychiatry course. This page offers some suggestions of how to combine TrOn with your teaching and how to make this 'blended learning' approach work well for you and your trainees.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is the combination of face-to-face teaching with material delivered digitally, for example through eLearning or an online forum. The idea is that this can offer students the best of both worlds, with the opportunity for learning at a pace and time suited to the individual using the online material and the opportunity to interact with others, ask questions and apply knowledge in the classroom environment. Indeed, one meta-analysis of 45 studies demonstrated that blended learning students achieved better results than those taught using traditional methods or eLearning alone (Means et al, 2013).
Why is TrOn a useful way to provide a digital element to my teaching?
TrOn modules are eLearning modules that are mapped to the MRCPsych syllabus so they are likely to be well aligned to the syllabus for your core psychiatry course. Modules are written by trainees for trainees and are reviewed by experts to ensure accuracy. They are freely available to all pre-membership psychiatric trainees (and other members) of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Therefore core trainees can access them already for free. This means you avoid the costs of setting up a digital learning environment.
When should I ask trainees to do TrOn modules?
Trainees often use TrOn after receiving teaching as a way of revising the material but research suggests that there are significant benefits to 'flipping' the classroom and getting trainees to complete background learning before the face-to-face session (Levine et al, 2004; Mazur, 2009). TrOn modules provide a solid foundation on which to base further learning. Therefore completing a module before face-to-face teaching will ensure trainees have an understanding of the topic, freeing up face-to-face learning time for clarification, reinforcement and problem solving. This means trainees can attain higher-level learning outcomes, such as the application, analysis and appraisal of information, within the same amount of face-to-face time (Brame, 2013; Talbert, 2014).
How could I use TrOn with my course design?
There are a variety of methods for including TrOn in your core psychiatry course teaching. Your preference may depend on what fits best with the current course in your area, how you wish to introduce TrOn into your course and your intended learning outcomes.
Here are a few suggestions:
The flipped classroom
The flipped classroom involves asking students to do some learning (read a paper, do a TrOn module, watch a video etc.) prior to face-to-face teaching. This is one of the most straightforward and flexible ways to incorporate a digital element to a course that currently uses traditional teaching methods. How you use the face-to-face time is up to you but the great thing is that trainees will have already gained the core knowledge relevant to the topic. This means that rather than having to deliver a lecture, you can design activities to reinforce and apply knowledge and meet higher-level learning objectives. Depending on the exercises you choose you can also help trainees to develop their communication, team-working, negotiation, presentation or decision making skills.
For more information about flipped classrooms check out this article by Brame (2013) on the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching website.
Team based learning (TBL)
TBL is a flipped classroom approach, again requiring trainees to do preparatory work in order to ensure they have the knowledge to apply in the classroom. TBL sessions may take place over a whole day or multiple shorter class meetings. The preparatory work is therefore typically greater than you might expect for a single teaching session, for example a number of TrOn modules or key reading chapters. The face-to-face time then follows a set sequence, starting with a formative quiz answered first by individuals and then by facilitator chosen teams. The quiz helps the trainees to reflect on their learning and the facilitator to identify and explain poorly understood concepts in a mini-lecture. After this, the main part of the session(s) involves students working in teams to apply their knowledge to an 'application exercise.' This is a complex problem which involves a significant decision, for example a clinical case, research problem or management issue. The different teams work simultaneously on the same problem(s) and each team feeds back and justifies their decision encouraging reflection on choices made. This approach aims to support not only learning but collaboration, reflection and communication skills (Parmelee et al, 2012).
For more information about TBL check out the TBL collaborative website.
Problem based learning (PBL)
PBL involves trainees working in a group on a particular case to identify and meet learning objectives. Trainees are given a clinical case presentation and work together to use their pre-existing knowledge to develop a hypothesis to explain the problem. They then identify what they still need to learn and how to go about this. Trainees then have time for private study using resources such as TrOn and its key readings to meet these learning objectives. The group then meets again to discuss their learning and update their hypotheses about their case based on this new information. In core training cases will likely be based on the core curriculum and MRCPsych syllabus. TrOn is mapped to this syllabus and is therefore likely to support trainees in meeting such learning objectives.
For more information about PBL check out this article by Wood (2003) in the BMJ.
Trainee led model
Peer teaching – where trainees teach each other – and near-peer teaching – where trainees are taught by others just above their training grade (Ten Cate & Durning, 2007) – are two teaching methods used in some core psychiatry courses. The flipped classroom model has been combined with peer teaching (McLaughlin et al, 2014) and is well matched to the flattened peer-teaching hierarchy as it relies on an individual facilitating face-to-face time as opposed to providing expertise. Following completion of background materials, face-to-face time may be used by the peer teacher to present and facilitate discussion of an element of the work of interest to them, for example its application to a clinical problem which they have experienced.
As you can see many of these methods involve using TrOn resources before or during teaching sessions. We feel this is a very effective method as it frees up face-to-face time for more interactivity and knowledge application, aiding retention, allowing trainees to see the relevance to their clinical practice and work at the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (Brame, 2013). Where you want to introduce such methods gradually you can still use TrOn to check the level of your own teaching and to encourage trainees to revise classroom material.
How can I make blended learning as effective as possible?
There are a number of things to consider when introducing a blended learning approach to your core psychiatry teaching. Educators with experience introducing blended learning into their own educational environments highlight the importance of considering the following to get the most out of blended learning:
- Set learning objectives for each class – consider what you want your trainees to be able to do by the end of each session and choose your resources and activities to meet those objectives (Talbert, 2014)
- Ensure trainees can access the resources – this often refers to the ability of the trainee to access and use the resources but it is also important to consider when they will have time to do so (McLaughlin et al, 2014)
- Use classroom time to support active learning – it’s important to use activities that are student-centred, building upon prior learning and encouraging higher-level thinking. Reflective questioning, clinical problems, quizzes, student presentations and group tasks are all useful (DeLozier & Rhodes, 2016)
- Get course facilitators on board – classroom flipping only works well if facilitators consider what the trainees have been asked to learn in advance and adapt their teaching accordingly. Asking trainees to complete a TrOn module and then delivering a lecture on the same content will be frustrating for trainees (Godsk et al, 2013)
- Get trainees on board – one criticism of classroom flipping is that students may not do the preparatory work. This makes it very important that trainees know what is expected of them and what they need to do to prepare for the teaching session. Ensuring learning objectives are well aligned to trainee needs, professional practice and ambitions, encouraging opportunities for personal feedback from peers or the facilitator and brief formative tests are all useful motivators (Godsk et al, 2013; DeLozier & Rhodes, 2016).
How can I access TrOn?
If you are a member of the College you will already have access TrOn – just use your college username and password to log on. We know that many teachers on the core psychiatry course are not psychiatrists. If you teach but do not have access then get in contact with the TrOn team.
Brame CJ (2013) Flipping the Classroom. Center for Teaching and Learning. [website]
Ten Cate O, Durning S (2007) Peer teaching in medical education: twelve reasons to move from theory to practice. Medical teacher, 29: 591–599. [abstract]
DeLozier SJ, Rhodes MG (2016) Flipped Classrooms: a Review of Key Ideas and Recommendations for Practice. Educational Psychology Review, 1–11. [abstract]
Godsk M, Hougaard RF, Büchert Lindberg A (2013) Teaching Online Teaching Online: Seven Pedagogical Principles for Teacher Training. E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 95-104. [abstract]
Levine RE et al (2004) Transforming a Clinical Clerkship with Team Learning. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 16: 270–275. [abstract]
Mazur E (2009) Farewell, Lecture? Science, 323: 50–51. [PDF]
McLaughlin JE et al (2014) The Flipped Classroom. Academic Medicine, 89: 236–243. [abstract]
Means B, Murphy R, Baki M (2013) The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. Teachers College Record, 115: 1–47. [PDF]
Parmelee D et al (2012) Team-based learning: A practical guide: AMEE Guide No. 65. Medical Teacher, 34: 275–287. [abstract]
Talbert R (2014) Creating learning objectives, flipped classroom style. The Chronicle of Higher Education. [website]
Wood DF (2003) What is problem based learning ? BMJ, 326: 328–330. [website]