UMC education went online to fit new reality – in the process reached more students

Education / 21 December 2021

Image: iStock

The pandemic put UMC’s face-to-face training activities on hold, but online the courses are reaching more people from more countries than ever before.


UMC has been offering face-to-face two-week pharmacovigilance courses in Uppsala, Sweden since 1993. But, like so many other long-standing events, the Annual PV Course has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 course was initially postponed, but it soon became obvious that to continue offering this course would mean moving it online – and doing so quickly, as this was the time the national pharmacovigilance centres’ staff were in most need.

While we certainly did not foresee all the challenges of hosting an online course when we began, it’s also true to say that we did not anticipate all the advantages. Indeed, we have been happily surprised by the high interest, the positive feedback, and the sheer number of people we have been able to reach in our new teaching format.

During the last face-to-face course in Uppsala in 2019, 30 participants from 18 countries took part in our training. But since the end of 2020, when we completed the transition from face-to-face to the online environment, we have delivered pharmacovigilance education to 170 professionals from 64 countries, with courses in both English and Spanish.

This map shows where UMC training participants came from in 2021. The blue markers indicate places from which there had been no training participants since at least 2010. Map: Padlet

This map shows where UMC training participants came from in 2021. The blue markers indicate places from which there had been no training participants since at least 2010. Map: Padlet

Our new online approach is a blend of both self-paced and instructor-led courses.

The self-paced courses have no scheduled activities and can be taken by the participant at any time. They include short, recorded lectures combined with quizzes and reflection exercises.

In the instructor-led courses, in addition to short lectures and quizzes, we focus on individual assignments, to which UMC instructors provide feedback followed by live discussion meetings.

This blend has proved popular and, although it at first felt like a compromise that had been forced by circumstances, we are now excited to explore and exploit the new possibilities it brings.

UMC's current online PV course offering

UMC's current online PV course offering

Comments from course participants

“I am grateful to UMC for organising these types of courses, and to the trainers for the interesting feedback they give us, which allows us to improve in carrying out these tasks in our centres.”(Peru)

“I found the course very interesting. I learned from beginning to end.” (Honduras)

“I will no longer spend hours manually sifting through thousands of Excel rows to do data mining because I can do it with VigiLyze. Even if I have to do manual analysis, it will be more effective because I will have initial guiding information from the VigiLyze analysis.” (Uganda)

“I really liked meeting so many colleagues from other countries who participated, and it was very enriching … that they contributed with their knowledge and also their doubts, because they helped me to reflect on how we work in my centre.” (Argentina)

“The exercises were very enriching; I consider that in practice is where we can learn best and that was what I liked the most about this course.” (Honduras)

“Based on the knowledge acquired in this part of the training, I'll definitely look into case series assessment with a new pair of eyes.” (The Netherlands)

“Despite using VigiFlow for more than a year, in this module I learned that data entry can be greatly improved. This will allow me to propose modifications to the internal VigiFlow User Guide that we have in my area.” (Mexico)

“This course was an eye opener. I was particularly impressed by the signal detection capabilities of VigiLyze, and I will be definitely using it in my work after these trainings.” (Zimbabwe)

Plans for future course offerings

  • Offer current self-paced courses to a wider audience with unlimited number of participants
  • Continue to offer instructor-led courses to our main target audience, the national and regional pharmacovigilance centres, with a limited number of participants per course
  • Organise advanced face-to-face pharmacovigilance courses in Uppsala, when the pandemic situation allows, for the national and regional centre staff that have completed our online courses

Visit UMC’s education and training website to find out more.

Elki Sollenbring
Senior Pharmacovigilance Education Specialist, UMC

Nadja Jastrebova
Senior Pharmacovigilance Education Specialist, UMC

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