Large scale digital innovation in South Australian student nursing and midwifery programs

South Australian nursing and midwifery students have spent the last twelve months transitioning to online monitoring of their clinical experiences at the University of South Australia. How UniSA students and staff adapted to this platform is the subject of this paper.

The university introduced the popular PebblePad platform in the Bachelor of Midwifery in early 2019 as a staged implementation. The Bachelor of Nursing students followed with implementation of the platform across the program later in 2019.

South Australian nursing and midwifery programs have, unlike other states, been using paper-based records for many years. The shift to an online learning platform was a complex project impacting approximately 3,500 students and 215 partner sites. The project required venue support, extensive education in partner sites, resource development and student support to ensure a smooth transition and positive experience for students and staff.

The benefits of the system include real-time access to clinical experiences for university staff that has allowed for feedback mechanisms and a closer relationship with clinical venues, clinical staff and students.

Using an online learning platform has transformed the ability to provide oversight, engage with students, provide feedback and allowed for more robust verification processes to be implemented. Research has supported the use of online portfolios and identified benefits that include the ability to demonstrate continuous development and level of preparedness for professional practice (Birks et al. 2016; Sidebotham et al. 2018).

Some barriers were experienced in the transition that included resistance from a minority of students who had used paper-based records previously. Other barriers were venue staffs’ resistance to the change. This was particularly evident in some older staff members who were less familiar with the technology.

We managed these issues by using mentors and providing one on one sessions were required to support students in the transition. The venue staff were offered multiple opportunities to provide feedback, attend in-service education, and almost all of the initial issues were quickly overcome with a targeted educational and supportive response. We also provided a range of focused online resources and manuals to assist, as well as instructional videos and online drop-in sessions. A dedicated PebblePad coordinator was recently appointed to be the first point of contact between students and venues for support and troubleshooting any issues that arise.

Overall the project has transformed clinical record keeping in the undergraduate nursing and midwifery programs. We have transitioned from the outdated system where oversight only occurred at specific assessment points throughout a student’s program to a system that allows real-time feedback, monitoring and participation in student learning and stronger partnerships with clinical venues using technology to enhance the student and venue experience.


Birks, M., Hartin, P., Woods, C., Emmanuel, E., Hitchins, M., 2016. Students’ perceptions of the use of eportfolios in nursing and midwifery education. Nurse Education in Practice. 18: 46-51.

Sidebotham, M., Baird, K., Walters, C. & Gamble, J. 2018. Preparing student midwives for professional practice: Evaluation of a student e-portfolio assessment item. Nurse Education in Practice. 32: 84-89.


Angela Brown, BNurs, BMid, MMid, MBA, PhD is Program Coordinator (Clinical) Bachelor of Midwifery at the University of South Australia
Naomi Rooney, BNurs, PGCert Medical Surgical, MN (Emergency) is Program Director (Clinical) Bachelor of Nursing at the University of South Australia

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