About NESC

There are around 150 employees in NHS Education South Central (NESC) who are responsible for workforce development of around 90,000 pre-registration and postgraduate healthcare workers across Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.  Over 20,000 clinicians, dental tutors and GPs in NHS trusts, Primary Care Trusts, dental practices and GP practices work with NESC, part of the Strategic Health Authority, in formal educator roles and providing mentoring.

Alison Wright, E-learning Programme Manager for NESC was initially seconded from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust in a project to investigate the use of e-learning within NESC and across NHS South Central. She then developed a set of recommendations for NESC to inform their strategic direction of e–learning, and now works on a programme of work to implement the strategy. These include exploring the use of Moodle within NESC.


Following a survey of all NESC employees regarding their existing arrangements and future plans for e-learning and a review of LMS available, the open source learning management system (LMS) Moodle was chosen as the e-learning platform to cater for staff groups that fall outside of the NHS’ National Learning Management System, such as GPs and dental healthcare professionals. The main benefit of Moodle is that it is open source, free, and was already being used by both the Wessex Deanery and the Dental School that form part of NESC.

There are 38,000 registered Moodle sites  worldwide including active users in the NHS such as https://www.i-am-in-the-moodle.co.uk/, used by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust for essential online courses and assessments for staff working at the Trust, and Cornwall NHS’ Moodle site.

In NHS South Central, early adopters of Moodle were public health trainees and the Dental School who used it to set up a community of practice for others across the patch. As the system was not being used extensively, no Moodle skills training or support was available and Alison recommended that its use be proactively extended through a concerted training programme.
With users keen to continue their use of Moodle, and seeing the value in combining the two Moodle systems running across the formerly separate departments, NESC now just has the one branded Moodle platform which is used for blended learning: https://www.learning.nesc.nhs.uk.

The success of e-learning to meet the required outcomes is wholly dependent on its implementation and is proven to be most effective when incorporated as part of an integrated training strategy.

Alison Wright

E-learning Programme Manager

Rolling-out Moodle for e-learning

Once the decision to use Moodle had been made, Alison tendered to Moodle partners and training companies, who were tasked to suggest ways of training educators in the use of Moodle, and to promote Moodle throughout NESC using online methods.

HowToMoodle was chosen as a training consultant for the Moodle project for its innovative and flexible approach and devised two awareness sessions, which took place in March 2009. This comprised of 30-minute ‘lunch and learn’ sessions delivered online and in realtime using WebEx. Facilitated by expert Moodle tutors, the sessions covered ‘what is Moodle’ and ‘what can I do with Moodle as an educator’.

HowToMoodle was also commissioned to devise a 4 week online learning programme to equip delegates to plan and develop effective, engaging courses and activities and within a short lead-time. The online Course Creator training took place for around ten delegates in May-June 2009, chosen from those who had attended lunch and learn sessions and who wanted to become more involved.  The online course developed was ideal for the learners who were spread across various sites such as GP and dental practices. One hour a week was dedicated to an interactive tutor-led online session via WebEx.  The sessions brought learners together to practice their skills, keep up the momentum and to talk over issues and ideas.

One learner commented, “After watching last week’s webinar, and after today’s webinar, I feel on top of things again! The webinar today was really useful. I liked the approach of going through other participants’ courses and getting essentially a feel for what works well, what doesn’t work so well and also for getting ideas.


These were supplemented with asynchronous activities to work on, such as creating their own courses. , Participants were encouraged to visit each others courses to gain ideas and give feedback. Each course had a peer review form to leave feedback.
The programme covered the following:

•    introduction and getting started;
•    setting up your course;
•    design, resources and activities;
•    forms of assessment;
•    bringing it all together.

Learners also wrote a reflective journal in Moodle throughout the course with their thoughts on how the training was going, seen only by them and their tutor.

HowToMoodle has provided tailored training for NESC to meet our exact requirements, and the company was flexible and innovative enough to do this online in order to give a fun approach to the training

Next steps

With the planned courses, Alison plans to give delegates pre-coursework so that they better understand the requirements.  Making the time commitment more explicit in the joining instructions, and suggesting that they plan out a course from scratch on paper before starting the training, as some educators are more used to providing coaching and mentoring rather than devising formal courses. As well as their day job, the aim of the additional training is to devise a course that would encourage people to start using Moodle, and for them to complete a finished or trial course.

Two delegates in particular have taken the skills learnt forward: the Portsmouth GP Training Programme and the Programme Development Team for Medical Education.  Karen O’Reilly of the Portsmouth GP Training Programme joined the training programme at week 2 after a trainee dropped out through illness. As she has used Moodle before through her son’s school she had some contact with the system and a degree of recognition.  She comments,“Starting so late into the course it certainly helped that I had used Moodle before so I already knew how it looked. I needed dedicated time to sit down and concentrate on the course and completed most of it during a week’s holiday. The training was brilliant and the trainers were approachable and helpful.”
By the end of this year Alison aims to increase the number of Moodle areas in use across the NESC portfolio to support Community of Practice groups such as public health trainees where documents and useful information can be shared and where there are discussion forums.

Alison herself uses the Moodle application for the regional e-learning group which meets face-to-face and also shares ideas across the Moodle area. This is used with WebEx to help reduce the number of face-to-face meetings to reduce travel time, expenses and to be more eco-friendly. It also means the e-learning group is using, and becoming familiar with, the technology that it’s championing.

Trainee GPs could soon benefit from an e-learning programme

Karen O’Reilly, Programme Director on the Portsmouth Day Release course for vocational training for GPs recently took part in the NESC Moodle training programme from HowToMoodle. She now aims to introduce Moodle to the team of 10 educators who are responsible for training the 2010 intake of 20-40 trainee GPs and second tier educators such as the doctors involved in training learners on a day-to-day basis.

The Moodle course will have a dual function: acting as a central repository for documents and information that educators can access and add materials to; and providing trainees with an enhanced way of learning general principles and interconnecting with each other.  Further developments could include using the site for practice GP assessments. Funding is yet to be agreed and Karen hopes to be given dedicated time in order to get the site up and running and to make it live.
She has already devised a demo site as part of her training course from HowToMoodle and presented this to the whole education team, showing its possibilities.  If funding is agreed she will arrange a half day training session for educators on Moodle, in order to encourage them to use it.  This is essential as she estimates that currently only one or two of the expert team have had any e-learning experience of this kind.  The educators will have advance use of the site for a few months to ensure they are familiar with it, prior to it going live with students.

Moodle project examples