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Public Health England

Developing a bespoke Virtual Learning Environment for field epidemiology

The Client

Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK. They exist to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing. They also aim to reduce health inequalities.

Public Health England hosts the UK Field Epidemiology Training Programme on behalf of the UK. This is a two-year workplace-based training programme.

The Challenge

The UK Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP) had been run as a programme in association with the equivalent FETP of the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) since 2011. This partnership included access to the ECDC European Virtual Academy (EVA) Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

As this association was ending, Public Health England were looking to provide their own VLE. FETP had a reputation as an excellent training programme for mid-career field epidemiologists in the UK, so the solution needed to be a recognisably high-quality product making training accessible and an improved learning experience for trainees.

The team planned to use a product called Articulate Storyline 360, to develop their in-house eLearning assets, combined with their private Vimeo channel to deliver a training programme to their trainees. So, the VLE solution needed to integrate with these technologies.

The new VLE also needed to be modern, fit for purpose for field epidemiology, appealing for learners and easy for staff to navigate in the backend. UK FETP also intended to create new online courses which will be accessible to current trainees and most likely others working in Field Epidemiology, so the solution needed to be scalable.

Desktop, Macbook and tablet showing pages from Public Health England’s VLE

The Solution

Public Health England’s long-term aim was to have a platform that supported classroom-based learning, study group activities and collaborative approaches to learning and iterative feedback/assessment.

To deliver against this long-term solution, it was clear that a ‘blended environment’ drawing on the strengths of different technologies was required to deliver all the requirements. We also wanted to create a solution that was partly built on the tools and knowledge already present at PHE.

Our team chose Moodle to deliver the core structured learning courses (SCORM). Moodle was able to deliver many of the short-term requirements making it a perfect choice for the foundation of the project. It was also an environment that staff and current learners were familiar with, as it formed the basis for the ECDC European Virtual Academy’s VLE.

As PHE had recently adopted the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, we were able to integrate to open up additional Microsoft tools to use alongside Moodle. These included production tools (Office Online); integrated storage (OneDrive, Azure); collaborative tools (Office 365); collaboration tools (Teams and OneNote); and communications tools (Teams and Outlook).

Blended together these two tools provided the short-term foundation PHE required to provide a modern VLE. However, we also road mapped future integrations to resolve some of their long-term needs. These included a Drupal 8 Content Management System (CMS) to provide richer content management capabilities as well as Teacher Dashboard 365, a Microsoft Office 365/Teams plug in to provide a virtual classroom environment.

This approach ensured that we utilised the tools and knowledge available PHE to deliver a modern and personalised VLE in the short-term whilst ensuring it was scalable to future requirements.

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