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The role of blended learning in the clinical education of healthcare students: a

systematic review

Clinical education provides students with exposure to patients for learning experiences
that cannot be replicated in a classroom. However, understanding practice knowledge is
complex and difficult to teach. Blended learning integrates face-to-face and online
engagement to provide greater flexibility in the teaching and learning process but little is
known about its potential in clinical education.

Summary of the work

The aim of this review was to determine the impact of blended learning in the clinical
education of healthcare students. Articles published between 2000 and 2010 were
retrieved from online and print sources, and included multiple research methodologies.
Search terms were derived following a preliminary review of relevant literature.

Summary of results
Ninety seven articles were retrieved and 77 were removed after a first round of analysis. A
further round of critical appraisal excluded another 13, leaving seven for the review. Each
study evaluated the use of a blended learning intervention in a clinical context, although
each intervention was different. Three studies included a control group, and two were
qualitative in nature. Six showed an improvement in some aspect of clinical education.

There are few well-designed studies looking at the role of blended learning in clinical
education and those that were published were not homogenous, making comparison
between them difficult. In addition, sample sizes were small, making results hard to
generalise to other populations.

Take home message

A blended approach to clinical education may facilitate deeper understanding of practice
knowledge, improve reflective skills and enhance clinical competencies.

blended learning, clinical education