A phenomenological study investigating experiences of student learning using an online radiation therapy planning curriculum

Catherine Osborne, Susan Merchant, Kellie Knight, Jenny Sim, Caroline Wright

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Introduction: Traditionally radiation therapy planning was taught on campus in planning labs, or in the case of fully online programs, during clinical placements. In 2017, an innovative online planning curriculum was developed using a structured, self-directed approach of online learning and assessment, supported by a cloud-based planning system. This study aimed to explore student experiences of learning and practising planning online, and the application of acquired knowledge and skills to clinical practice. Methods: Student experiences were investigated using an interpretive phenomenological method. A purposive sample of under-graduate and graduate entry students was recruited through email and snowballing. A combination of online individual and group interviews were conducted. Two researchers analysed the data, and used reflection, discussion and note taking processes to immerse themselves in the data. Following data collection, the process of organising data for analysis, applying a coding and condensing process to reduce the data into themes and sub-themes was conducted. Results: Seventeen students from three cohorts participated in the interviews. Five key themes were identified: Flexibility, Connectedness, Personal relevance, Professional Experts and Safe environment. Sub-component themes were also identified. Discussion: Student engagement was based on a range of factors that influence the student experience. The planning curriculum allowed students to develop confidence and competence in pre-clinical planning skills prior to placement. Conclusion: Although initial experiences were overwhelming, over time students experienced a sense of engagement with their learning when supported by clinical and academic experts. Students felt more prepared for clinical placement as a result of their experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-12
Number of pages7
JournalTechnical Innovations & Patient Support in Radiation Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Phenomenology
  • Radiation therapy planning (RTP)
  • RTP education
  • RTP online curriculum
  • Skill transition
  • Student experience

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