Case Study Summary

  • A UK based hospice specialising in helping relieve pain and controlling patients’ symptoms with free end of life care and high-quality nursing.
  • The hospice provides education for its staff, volunteers, health and social care staff  and members of the public in the form of study days and short courses, including distance learning courses delivered via post.
  • Income is primarily from fundraising and retail activities, with the necessity for significant expenditure focused on patient and community care.
  • The hospice had a requirement for the implementation of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that can deliver collaborative, blended learning courses for its emotive course topics.
  • Acquiring a suitable, experienced VLE expert was paramount, to help the hospice implement and run the chosen e-learning platform successfully and within a strict budget.

Background

Princess Alice Hospice, a charity operating in Surrey, south west London and Middlesex was established in 1980 with a vision to help relieve pain and control patients’ symptoms with free palliative and specialist end of life care and high quality nursing.

Since the hospice’s official opening 26 years ago, it has grown considerably, now with over 300 employees and 1,200 volunteers, and partnerships with fellow hospices around the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe. The hospice runs an In-patient ward and Day Hospice in Esher, Surrey, and has a community team which cares for over 800 patients in their own homes at any one time.

As part of the provision of specialist patient care, the charity’s objective is to provide education to its staff, volunteers and to the wider community in order to maintain their high quality standards of care and share their specialist knowledge and experience. Their educational service runs in the form of study days and short courses, including a distance learning course called the “European Certificate in Essential Palliative Care”, with over 200 candidates enrolled. This 8 week course, currently provided by the hospice via post with an assessment day at the end of the training, has benefitted many learners in the UK and abroad – who may have found it difficult to travel to the hospice to take part.

 

Now into its 11th year of offering the course, Princess Alice Hospice has recognised a strong requirement for the course to be made available online. This would not only help cut costs for the charity, from the reduction in postage and printing requirements, but primarily it would help in reaching its aim – to teach a vast amount of people in areas that they cannot reach geographically and offer them the vital specialist advice and support that is needed.

Challenges

Once it was established that the charity would require a virtual learning environment (VLE), one of the challenges faced was to obtain the funding for its initial implementation and on-going maintenance. With the NHS contributing to around 23% of their income, the remaining 77% relies on funding from donations, events, retail and other means. In order to ensure its expenditure remained largely focused on patient and community care, the hospice needed to raise the funding from another source.

The next challenge the charity faced was the necessity for their course delivery to include a collaborative, blended learning style. As the hospice courses are focused on emotive and sensitive topics, the learning style is focused on discussions and changing attitudes and approaches towards care as opposed to teaching knowledge. Therefore, the charity needed to ensure that their e-learning platform would give learners the ability to progress in stages, give feedback, reflect and remain interactive with the facilitator at all times throughout the training.

Upon establishing a suitable platform, the hospice would then need to obtain a Moodle supplier who had experience in the health care sector, could offer competitive pricing to meet their budget and who could provide the hospice with the expertise and knowledge required, as and when this was needed. Although the charity has a small internal IT department, their primary focus is to manage clinical records online and support the administrative needs of the organisation, and so the focus could not be diverted from this to assist with the Moodle implementation and support.  Additionally, as the hospice had little experience with VLE platforms, they needed a Moodle expert who could help the hospice at every stage, from the initial implementation through to on-going support once the Moodle site was established.

HowToMoodle team worked closely with the hospice and arranged frequent liaisons to ensure that their theme met their branding requirements fully

Solution

In January 2012 the hospice applied for a grant with the James Tudor Foundation to support the implementation and maintenance of the e-learning platform. In August 2012 the foundation – a charitable company with the objective of the relief of sickness – was pleased to award the hospice with funding to support the first year of implementation.

The next step for the hospice was to identify the most suitable e-learning platform to meet the requirements and primary business objectives. As part of its investigation the charity trialled a pilot Moodle site, used at the time by one of its partner hospices. Following the trial Princess Alice Hospice concluded that the Moodle Open Source e-learning platform met all its requirements and would allow the charity to deliver the type of blended learning and collaborative approach the company sought.

From this decision on the VLE platform, Princess Alice Hospice then set out to obtain a suitable Moodle supplier to assist the charity in the implementation and set up of the site. From the initial shortlist of 3 UK Moodle partners, the charity elected HowToMoodle as their Moodle supplier, due to their existing experience of working with healthcare organisations, its competitive pricing, and the reassurance and confidence the company gave in assisting the hospice with their project.

Over the following months HowToMoodle assisted Princess Alice Hospice in the set up and hosting of its new Moodle website. Some of the charity’s core Moodle team attended Moodle administrator training to enable them to test their Moodle site and explore its features, with the knowledge of how best to do this, prior to its launch. Thissaved the organisation valuable time than if they were to explore the extensive range of Moodle features themselves.

Due to the importance of the charity’s representation to the public, the hospice needed to ensure its Moodle theme design was bespoke and in accordance with their requirements. To achieve this, the HowToMoodle team worked closely with the hospice and arranged frequent liaisons to ensure that their theme met their branding requirements fully.

The availability of social functionality (such as Forums, Chat and Wiki) within Moodle allows the organisation to generate feedback, discussions and for use internally for its mandatory training requirements.

Now and the Future

Princess Alice Hospice launched their first online course on their Moodle site at the end of September.

Their fully bespoke Moodle theme is currently being finalised and HowToMoodle consultants have additionally provided onsite Course Creator training for their internal Moodle team, to give them a broad based introduction of Moodle functionality so that they can make informed decisions about their future course design.

Once their theme and site are well established, the hospice plans to launch the site officially within the entire hospice and internal staff in February 2013, as well as making a selection of their courses available via their Moodle site.

Over the next four months we will be providing updates on the hospice’s journey through their Moodle implementation and development, including their successes, challenges, and hints and tips along the way.

Initial benefits of Moodle VLE for the Hospice:

  • The Open Source solution enabled the charity to save funds on its implementation without any initial or on-going licence costs, allowing them to instead invest the available funds on vital training and branding requirements.
  • Moodle gave the hospice the flexibility to deliver the collaborative learning approach that is essential for their course delivery.
  • The Moodle solution allowed the hospice to style their site to reflect the organisations branding adequately.