IT Futures

University of Edinburgh

Drs Gill Aitken, Tim Fawns, Derek Jones


Scaling an online Masters: approaches and challenges to growth on the MSc Clinical Education


On the MSc Clinical Education, student numbers have grown rapidly from around 40 in 2010 to about 150 current students in 2017. First year intake has quadrupled over five years to over 70 new matriculated students from 270 applications. We have tried various approaches to restructure teaching in response to this growth. In this presentation, we talk about our experiences (positive and negative) of trying to maintain a sense of community, personal engagement and quality while scaling up our numbers of online students. In particular, we will discuss the bottlenecks of scaling up – those aspects of the programme which are most difficult to scale in terms of educational approaches and technologies.


Dr Gill Aitken: I am the Programme Director of the MSc in Clinical Education. I am also the School Director of Quality for the Edinburgh Medical School. I have many years teaching and clinical experience. Before joining the MSc Clinical Education in September 2010 I have worked at Queen Margaret University (distance nurse education and inter-professional education), Glasgow Caledonian University (lecturer in dietetics) and Edinburgh Napier University (researcher in diabetes). As I dietitian, I specialised in the management of diabetes and obesity, leading the out-patient service at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Dr Tim Fawns: I am an Academic Coordinator on the MSc in Clinical Education. I also lead the international Edinburgh Summer School in Clinical Education and am a part-time member of the MSc in Digital Education (formerly the MSc in E-learning) programme team, mostly teaching on the Assessment, Learning and Digital Education course. My main academic interests are in education and technology.

Dr Derek Jones: I am an Academic Coordinator on the MSc in Clinical Education. I have been teaching health and social care professionals since 1993 at undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral level. Before joining the MSc Clinical Education in October 2015 I worked at Queen Margaret University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Northumbria University, and as a self employed researcher and academic coach.















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