Chris Gibbs headshot
Chris Gibbs/Chief Executive Officer
4 min read·June 16th, 2021
At the end of 2020, MHPN celebrated ten years of our webinar program – we have developed and delivered 75 webinars with over 30,000 attendees. At this milestone, we asked Dr Barbara Murphy to conduct an independent evaluation of the entire webinar program.
– Chris Gibbs

MHPN works to strengthen the existing primary health network workforce to improve referral pathways and practitioner expertise and promote interdisciplinary practice and collaborative care. MHPN’s webinar program features case-based panel discussions and Q&A sessions by leading experts – modelling interdisciplinary practice and collaborative care.

At the end of 2020, MHPN celebrated ten years of our webinar program – we have developed and delivered 75 webinars with over 30,000 attendees. At this milestone, we asked Dr Barbara Murphy to conduct an independent evaluation of the entire webinar program.

After completing the report, Dr Murphy sat down with us to chat about her findings, working with MHPN and this particular data set, how MHPN webinars have evolved, what she believes makes them successful and the future of the program.

The breadth of Dr Murphy’s experience as a researcher working on program development and evaluation related to both mental and physical health and wellbeing meant that she was well placed to assist with MPHN’s evaluation activities.

In fact, Dr Murphy has been involved with MHPN, as an independent advisor, since its inception and she noticed that, as the webinar program developed, “more and more health professionals were engaging with the webinars”. It was this increased demand and the ten-year milestone that prompted a closer look at how, as she puts it, “engagement and satisfaction with the webinar program had changed over time”.

Dr Murphy formulated the evaluation report using ten years of consolidated webinar feedback surveys, completed by attendees at the conclusion of each webinar; each attendee was asked about their satisfaction with the webinar topic, content and delivery, and provided ratings of the effectiveness of the webinar panels and facilitators. Dr Murphy explains that “it is fabulous to work with such as large data set as this, and even more exciting when the results turn out to be so positive”.

One of the most noteworthy insights in Dr Murphy’s report is the increase in attendees per webinar and per year over the ten-year period. In 2011, MHPN’s first year of webinars, there was an average of 140 attendees per webinar; attendance steadily grew from there to an average of over five hundred attendees per webinar in 2019. In Dr Murphy’s opinion this increase indicates “that the appetite for this type of professional learning has increased over time, and that MHPN has become increasingly well equipped to respond to this increasing demand”.

As attendance numbers increased so too did the ratings of webinar effectiveness, relevance and positive impacts: by 2019, eighty per cent of respondents indicated that the specified webinar learning outcomes were entirely met and ninety-five per cent indicated that their work practice would improve as a result of their webinar attendance, a significant increase from earlier years. Dr Murphy says this demonstrates that “MHPN’s webinar program was not only attracting and engaging more and more practitioners over time, but also being more well received and beneficial to practitioners. We can extrapolate that this, in turn, meant increasingly positive impacts for their clients as well.”

Dr Murphy considers MHPN’s ten years of experience producing webinars as one of the key strengths of the program. She observes, “MHPN has been leading the way in online professional learning and professional development for over a decade now, especially in the area of promoting interdisciplinary practice for mental health care providers”. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that we all live and work with a shift towards online working and programming. Like many organizations MHPN has adjusted, in particular in the way that we support our networks, however we had existed comfortably in the online webinar environment for ten years prior to the pandemic.

MHPN strives to respond to, and incorporate into future programming, the feedback collected via surveys at the conclusion of our webinars and this, in Dr Murphy’s view, is another of key drivers of the longevity and success of our webinar program. She notes that MHPN has responded to the needs of our audience over the years by “introducing requested topics and ensuring the relevance of the content to their attendees”.

Over the ten years, MHPN’s webinar panels have featured a broad range of voices and expertise. We are proud to continue to work with many of these individuals and that their contributions are recognized by webinar attendees. Dr Murphy’s evaluation records that webinar panels were consistently rated as “mostly effective” or “very effective”. Dr Murphy attributes this to MHPN “attracting high quality expert panelists and facilitators, which contributes to the quality of the webinars it delivers”.

While the pandemic has mandated that a lot of previously face-to-face learning now take place online, webinars have always been a convenient way for busy practitioners to access professional development activities. MHPN webinars can be watched via our webinar library at any time, without having to travel, and for free. This means that, as Dr Murphy puts it, “a practitioner in the most remote area of Australia can now access the same high-quality information and expertise previously only available to their Metropolitan-based colleagues”.

In looking ahead, more than ever, it is important for MHPN to continue to adapt and respond to the changing landscape of mental health care provision in Australia. As an independent advisor to MHPN’s evaluation committee, Dr Murphy always has “adaptability and sustainability” on her agenda. As she and the committee continue to evaluate MHPN’s programs they “aim to ensure that everything developed and delivered by MHPN maintains the highest standards and meets the needs of the mental health workforce and the Australian community who they support”.

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The Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) respectfully acknowledges the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which our office is situated. We also acknowledge Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.