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Administering OSCEs online

Dr Duana Quigley and Dr Julie Regan, Practice Education Coordinator & Assistant Professor in Speech and Language Pathology.

Here they talk about their experience of Administering OSCEs online in an undergraduate speech and language therapy programme.

What might an ‘assignment brief’ look like for this assessment type in your context?  

The online OSCE consists of eight virtual stations which can be accessed through Blackboard. Each station examines a different clinical competency. Each OSCE station will be examined by a different Practice Tutor(s), clinician, staff member or patient representative. Students will rotate through the eight stations over a 90-minute period as per timetable provided.

The stations will be a combination of four live online stations in the presence of an examiner; three computer based self-directed stations and one break station. Each station will be ten minutes in length.

Grading will be based on the assessment rubric available on Blackboard.

What are the main advantages of this assessment type?  

Advantages of administering the OSCE online include the following:

  1. Clinical Skills- prepares students for telehealth and is suitable for assessment of many clinical competencies
  2. Low-cost and easily accessible equipment (skype/zoom/MS Teams) needed and is convenient in terms of reduced travel needed for students and examiners
  3. COVID-19- Enables adherence to social distancing guidelines
  4. Examiner ratings reasonably comparable when OSCEs assessed online vs face-to-face. Favourable feedback reported by examiners and students.

What are the main challenges for using this assessment type?  

  1. IT issues- wifi/laptop instability, poor audio quality, cut calls. Students need webcam/mic facilities on home computer
  2. Clinical skills- Challenging to assess certain physical examinations remotely (e.g., oro-facial)
  3. Student perceptions- Some report narrative flow can be awkward and can perceive it to be more challenging than in person. Some students don’t rate online OSCE as highly as in-person OSCE.

Why do you use this particular assessment type in a digital context? 

This assessment determines if students have achieved the competencies required to assess, diagnose and provide intervention to children and adults with a range of communication and swallowing disorders. As well as being useful as a summative assessment, the OSCE can be useful as a formative assessment to help students to identify strengths and areas to develop in advance of clinical placement and entering the profession.

Furthermore, the online delivery of the OSCE mirrors telehealth which has been a mainstay format of service delivery throughout the pandemic.

What advice would you give a colleague thinking about using this type of assessment?  

Refer to recent best practice guidelines for organisation and implementation of OSCEs and consider what adaptations need to be made to station formats I the context of online delivery. Additionally, ensure students and examiners are familiar with the online OSCE format through piloting and practice sessions.

Do you recommend any resources or technologies to support this type of digital assessment?  

Test sections within Blackboard works very well alongside commonly used IT platforms for live stations (e.g., Zoom, MS Teams).

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