Title: Developing blended and virtual PBL chemistry for pharmacy students

Project Lead: Peter Rainger (College of Medical and Dental Sciences)


Pharmacists have a unique mix of scientific and professional knowledge which makes them the healthcare experts on medicines and how to use them effectively. The 4-year MPharm is new to Birmingham and augments our world-renowned portfolio of healthcare courses in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. The programme is designed specifically to meet the needs of the future pharmacist, and delivers education using an integrated spiral curriculum model. The first intake starts in Sept 2013.

Teaching takes place in a variety of styles according to the subject specialty and includes a small amount of problem based learning in multi-professional groups with other healthcare students. Scientific and professional practice topics are integrated through lectures, seminars and small group tutorials, laboratory work, modelled and real clinical practice and bedside demonstrations.

The ‘Chemistry for Pharmacists’ modules (2x20 credits) typify the most innovative modules and their blended and virtual design helps distinguish the programme from other Pharmacy degrees around the country. Traditionally chemistry is taught through heavy reliance on practical lab-based skills often delivered by in-service teaching from chemists. Birmingham has chosen specifically to recognise the actual skills needed of the modern pharmacist, which today means that physical synthesis of chemical products by pharmacists working in clinical practice is rare: however detailed knowledge of the practical clinical application of chemistry principles is vital. 

A series of virtual laboratory interactive sessions will be designed to facilitate students to learn about chemistry within the context of pharmacy and the wider healthcare environment. The problem-based learning activities will combine the under-pinning principles of chemistry into integrated exercises which draw together the pharmacological, physiological and clinical aspects of a pharmacist role highlighting the importance of fundamental chemistry.

Working in conjunction with the School of Chemistry the resources will include video films of real-life chemical experiments, equipment and procedures. These will help student relate the virtual experiments to the actual experiments as they would be conducted in a real lab.  This approach makes significant capital resource savings in (a) not having to build additional chemistry laboratories and (b) more efficient and sustainable use of existing EPS facilities. It also provides the basis for the development of chemistry content for online and/or pharmacy courses which might include PGT or CPD for healthcare professionals.  The use of enquiry based learning style questions will be used across the MPharm programme at appropriate points as part of both lectures and SGTs. The use of clickers as part of an approach to offer interactive and engaging activities to students is well established.