A medical training designed to engage participants in a collaborative learning scenario that activates their knowledge, reveals misconceptions, and closes any gaps in their knowledge

The Challenge

Our client, a global, top-20 pharmaceutical company developed a new medication to treat multiple myeloma (MM), a progressive hematological cancer considered to be incurable. In the past decade, various new drugs for the treatment of MM were developed and approved. The competitive landscape for this drug is large and will become even larger in the coming years, as further drugs are in the pipeline.

Current treatment options have some drawbacks concerning safety, convenience, and sustainability. The new medication aims at meeting these unmet needs. Several early phase clinical studies of the drug have already had promising outcomes and phase III studies were ongoing. The medication was just approved by the FDA when the client contacted us to discuss strategies and tactics to train new employees. These employees would have to be thoroughly trained to understand the therapeutic area, the product, the competitive landscape, and the underlying studies.

The client requested a training that doesn’t just involve learning facts by heart and repeating them on command. Instead, they wanted to provide learners with a comprehensive understanding of the product within the disease area so they could explain the rationale behind the design of key studies and the significance of their results. In short, they wanted their learners to internalize the material so they could explain it simply and spontaneously.

Requirements on the training

encourage critical thinking
strengthen existing knowledge
examine and dispel misconceptions
engage learners with activities that are fun and suitable for highly educated adults
qualify learners that they are perceived as experts by other experts in the field

The Development Process

After reviewing the extensive background material provided by the client, an initial concept was developed outlining the content for a series of masterclasses across several days. This concept was discussed with the client and gradually refined. Due to the complexity of the project, six medical advisors under the guidance of a lead medical advisor developed various detailed concepts, presentations, and activities.

After receiving approval on the concepts from the client, the materials for the masterclasses were prepared digitally along with a draft version of the print materials. These were reviewed and discussed in depth during a training session for the masterclass facilitators. Any final feedback was incorporated, and the final training materials were produced, printed, and delivered to the client.

briefing material
CAST PHARMA conception team
CAST PHARMA production team
Final masterclass deliverables

In the end, 240 separate pieces
of material were designed, printed,
and shipped to the client

The Masterclass

Typically, the participants of a masterclass arrive at the event with a fairly comprehensive understanding of the relevant topics. In fact, this is a prerequisite for taking part. Mostly, however, their knowledge will have been gained through some form of one-way instruction, and will therefore tend to be passive rather than active. It will also possibly be undermined by hidden misconceptions and gaps.

The masterclass uses two different formats: presentations and activities. The presentations briefly recap previously acquired knowledge that will be needed during the upcoming activities. The activities of the masterclass aim to deepen existing knowledge and establish new connections.

Team discussions

For this activity, the participants are divided into small teams, ideally consisting of four members each. This ensures that everybody will take an active part in the discussion. Using the materials and topics provided, the teams discuss facts and contexts. The results of the discussion can then be compared with those of other teams. This approach allows participants to benefit from each other’s knowledge and to close their individual knowledge gaps. Also, they are given the opportunity to scrutinize the knowledge they have gained and to obtain new insights. The discussion process is supported by the facilitator and their expert knowledge

Poster discussions

Poster discussions are a special form of team discussion, with a poster providing the basis. These posters contain empty spaces which have to be filled in by the participants. Again, the discussions are first conducted in small teams, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to become active. Collaboratively, each team discusses different solutions and how to fill in the poster in the best possible way. Once the posters are filled in, the results of the different teams are compared and evaluated in a discussion involving all teams and participants.

Board games

Used throughout the masterclass, this format aims at engaging the participants in a visually appealing way, putting knowledge into context and thus helping participants recall and memorize facts, and create or discover complex knowledge. Board games are typically conducted in small teams to ensure all participants have a chance to play. Furthermore, small teams allow the streamlining of individual knowledge and contribute to a successful conclusion to the game. Once all teams have finished the game, results are compared.

Clicker questions

Taking their name from the voting devices used, clicker questions can provoke discussions, reveal knowledge gaps and survey opinions among the participants regarding certain topics. They are not designed, it is important to stress, to test the knowledge of individual participants. Nobody is singled out as lacking knowledge in a particular area. Instead, the anonymity of the survey encourages participation, and its results identify topics that need to be elaborated on in general.

The Learner and the Facilitator

The presentations and activities of the masterclass involve every participant in three-fold interactions with the facilitator, with the materials provided, and with other learners. The skills of the facilitator, the quality of the materials, and the enthusiasm of the participants all make for a successful masterclass. The facilitator’s role is very different from that of a presenter. Wherever necessary, the facilitator assists the participants in the activities. The facilitator moderates and directs discussions, provides additional information, gives participants the chance to make mistakes without loss of face, and allows different approaches, opinions and interpretations.

The Timeline

Drug approval

April 2016:
Primary results of the 1st
phase III study

July 2016:
First contact

September 2016:
Kick-off meeting at the
client’s offices

October 2016:
Client’s briefing materials

December 2016:
Idea to develop an
engaging masterclass

January 2017:
Development of ideas
for activities and short

March 2017:
Presentation of the detailed
activity concepts and
prototypes to the client

May 2017:
Approval of the presentations,
materials, and activities

May 2017:
Facilitator training

July 2017:
All materials finalized
and shipped to the
1st masterclass event