Date of Award


Document type


Degree Name

MSc by research (Master of Science by research)

First Supervisor

Sarah Mansfield


Medical Students, Workload, European Credit Transfer, Curriculum


Student workload (SWL) is one of the main elements of curriculum design, and its measurement is problematic especially in an integrated problem-based-learning (PBL) environment. It is the foundation of determination of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) units which are awarded upon students’ achievement. As ECTS depends on the notional, and not on the contact SWL, it has been more flexible for meeting the needs of the modern innovative educational trends. The lack of suitable credit system in our medical PBL institution was the drive for the change project.

The aim of the project was to identify the nature and amount of students’ independent learning activities in order to assign the ECTS units to our medical PBL program components. HSE OD change model was used, where focus group interviews and log diaries were employed. Based on that, calculations were then used for allocating ECTS to the studied units. The response evaluation model and thematic description approach were used for data collection and data analysis respectively. The broad variations of the independent studying activities have confirmed the extra work activities in an integrated PBL programs. The measured notional SWL was about 55 and 58 hrs./week, which equates 29 and 31 ECTS/semester for years two and three respectively. In conclusion, measuring SWL is an indispensable need in PBL programs for evading the associated overload, and improving quality of learning. Assigning ECTS improves program quality assurance, and has educational, curricular and organizational impacts which should be regularity monitored and evaluated.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

File Size

2,102 KB


A thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Science from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 2015.