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Supporting innovation in practice-based learning part II

24 Sep 2020
  • Education and training

Brendon Edmonds

Head of Education

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to reflect and explore the various ways education and training can be delivered for our professions in the future. As part of this, we have explored some of the innovative solutions to the challenges facing healthcare education, which are currently being used in the sector.

In the previous blog supporting innovation in practice-based learning we looked at how our Standards of education and training support innovation in technology-enabled care services and discussed multidisciplinary approaches to practice-based learning.

In this blog, we explore the use of simulation, another key area of interest in relation to practice based learning.

Using simulation to support practice-based learning

Simulation is currently used within professional training programmes to prepare learners to enter practice-based settings and to support the observation and assessment of practical skills in a controlled environment. In recent months, the focus has been on exploring opportunities for simulation to be used more widely as a suitable learning experience. The intent is to explore to what extent it could function interchangeably alongside the more traditional ‘placement’ learning experience, rather than being only viewed as an add-on to it.

We support the collective effort being undertaken by workforce and employer led organisations alongside the professional bodies to develop a new consensus in this area. Our expectations within the context of the Standards of education and training remain the same; education providers must ensure the practice experience in simulation is suitable to support the achievement of programme learning outcomes.   

These standards outline that learning and teaching methods used must be appropriate to the effective delivery of learning outcomes. The assessment strategy and design must ensure that those who successfully complete a programme meet the standards of proficiency for the relevant part of the Register. Assessment throughout the programme must ensure that learners demonstrate they are able to meet the expectations of professional behaviour, including the standards of conduct, performance and ethics. Assessments must also provide an objective, fair and reliable measure of learners’ progression and achievement.

To aid cross sector discussion, we recently developed guidance for education providers to further clarify our position on the use of simulation. As we do not prescribe how and where practice must take place, or specify a core number of hours, education providers have flexibility to consider using simulation where they feel it can be meaningfully applied to deliver a quality practice-based learning experience.


University of Southampton - a virtual occupational therapy placement using simulation and case study learning.

What was delivered:

Over a period of five weeks we delivered an alternative placement module incorporating a range of educational modalities to consolidate academic studies and replicate a first year placement. Via Microsoft Teams, the students participated in daily activities, structured around the occupational therapy process to develop their communication, reflection and note-writing skills, using case studies and simulated practice. All students had the opportunity for immersive feedback and report the module as being an authentic placement opportunity.

Watch the BSc Occupational Therapy Placement Replacement Module video below.

 “Our students found the alternative placement module a highly positive learning experience. It developed their confidence to practise in a digital environment, and we will look to build upon this with our practice partners through the development of TECs based placements in future. Simulation allowed us to offer exposure to a wider range of clinical cases with varying levels of disclosure compared to that which is commonly experienced by students in traditional placement settings.

"Students also commented on the depth of the feedback they received about their practice, with rich perspectives provided by educators, fellow students and patients throughout the module. We were pleased to be able to deliver this module in keeping with HCPC standards and in accordance with Royal College of Occupational Therapy’s requirements, which enabled this practice experience to count towards required placements hours and academic credit. Our students are now ready, and arguably better prepared than normal for their second-year placements.

“We are also more informed now about the limits simulated learning environments have - it is difficult to replicate the visceral experience students get when practicing within a ward or community-based setting. Going forward, we will look to use simulation more within our curriculum, particularly to prepare students to enter real world placement settings with confidence. A key challenge will be to ensure the simulated experience is as authentic as possible, recognising the significant investment required to prepare environments, learning materials, actors and service users to provide an immersive learning opportunity.”

Dr Rachel Dadswell, Occupational Therapy Programmes Manager at the University of Southampton

Stephen Wordsworth, Chair of the HCPC’s Education and Training Committee says;

“The HCPC are supportive of practice-based learning innovation in the area of technology-enabled care services, the use of simulation and opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration. 

"We believe our standards provide scope for education stakeholders to work together to explore potential opportunities to create cohesion and capacity regarding the provision and quality assurance of practice-based learning. 

"Education providers should feel encouraged and empowered to explore opportunities in this area, knowing the regulator is supportive of these efforts, where our standards can continue to be met.”

We encourage education providers to consider exploring this and areas of innovation (including those mentioned in our previous blog) on approved programmes where the quality of teaching and learning can be maintained. Our standards set out an enabling framework to support providers and there is no need for regulatory approval to implement changes. We also encourage providers to consider any available professional body guidance relating to this.  

For further detailed advice contact our Education team via


Page updated on: 24/09/2020