How do we use Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) to assess the impact of health interventions?
Join our online RCT course and learn to design and implement your own trials.
- Find out how trials are used in healthcare and public health settings.
- Learn from award-winning health research teams.
- Gain a strong career advantage as a researcher or health professional.
This part-time course fits around full-time work. You can access our expertise wherever you are in the world and manage your own study hours.
Build credits towards a Masters degree
This online course is part of:
- MSc Applied Health Sciences
- MSc Clinical Nutrition
- MSc Health Economics for Health Professionals
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
You can use the credits you earn on this short course towards any of these postgraduate qualifications.
What you’ll study
This course will take you through the process of designing a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) from start to finish.
RCTs are the ‘gold standard’ test for proving a new drug or treatment is better than an existing one.
You will learn how these trials are used in the evaluation of real-world healthcare and public health settings.
You’ll develop your knowledge and awareness of:
- how to design a fair test
- the appropriate use of trials and alternative trial designs
- involving patients and the public
- the logistics and practicalities of designing real-world trials
- the role of clinical trials units.
By the end of this course, you’ll be able to…
Design and implement fair and accurate RCTs.
Recognise a range of trial design options that you can use.
Specify and critically evaluate the key elements of trial design.
Understand the logistics and practicalities involved in designing real-world trials.
Describe the differences between pragmatic and explanatory trials.
Justify trial design decisions.
How you’ll study
This distance-learning short course is delivered flexibly, 100% online. You can study with us anywhere in the world and manage your study hours to suit you.
This course is taught at Masters level.
Your teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.
You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources at your fingertips, including:
- tutorials via Powerpoint with audio
- interviews with clinicians
- reading materials
- discussion boards with your online colleagues and tutors
- the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library.
You’ll also use independent study and group exercises based around examples from real trials to develop your critical understanding of trial design.
You’ll learn from a team of experienced health researchers and academics from our School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition.
The course totals approximately 150 hours of study and assessment time. That’s around 10 – 15 hours per week.
This is an indicative guide to the time required for a typical student at this level to achieve the learning outcomes.
You can largely set your own study hours each week to cover the materials. MyAberdeen is available 24/7, so you can log in and study when it suits you.
Activities at fixed times
There may be some activities scheduled for fixed times. This could include coursework and assessments with deadlines, or online meetings with your tutor. Otherwise, you can access and work through the course at your convenience.
This course is assessed entirely online.
There are three assessments spread over the term. The online methods of assessment have been chosen to reflect the skills that are used by trialists in the real world.
We’ll assess your ability to:
- specify and critically evaluate the key elements of trial design
- justify trial design decisions
- describe the differences between pragmatic and explanatory trials.
Our first-class support structure will ensure that you aren’t alone in your studies. You’ll have contact with your tutors via email, MyAberdeen, and phone. You can use social media and discussion boards to chat with your fellow students too.
We provide a wide range of services to support you in your studies and beyond:
- Careers and Employability Service
- Disability support
- IT support
- Library support
- Student Support Service – help with finances, stress, wellbeing and non-academic issues
- Student Learning Service – study support, with advice sessions available via phone or Skype
- Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) – run by students for students
- Toolkit – clever apps and free training that can make your study life easier
Wherever you are in the world, you’ll feel part of our very special Aberdeen learning community.
Your course coordinator
Dr Kirsty McCormack
Kirsty has worked in the field of clinical research for over 20 years. A lecturer and research fellow with a PhD in Health Services Research, she is the Research Manager for the Centre for Healthcare Randomised Trials (CHaRT), a fully registered UK Clinical Research Collaboration Clinical Trials Unit.View Kirsty’s profile
Where this will take you
Towards a Masters
You’ll earn 15 credits at Masters level (SCQF Level 11) with this course. You can use these credits towards our:
Masters in Applied Health Sciences
Fast-track your career in healthcare with our uniquely flexible MSc Applied Health Sciences. Study 100% online or combine with on-campus courses at our Foresterhill Health Campus. 10% discount for NHS staff.View MSc Applied Health Sciences
Masters in Clinical Nutrition
Join an online Nutrition degree accredited by the Association for Nutrition. Study the link between diet and health, and how issues of over and undernutrition affect populations today. 10% discount for NHS staff.View MSc Clinical Nutrition
Masters in Health Economics for Health Professionals
Advance your career in health. Develop sought-after research skills and build your knowledge of health economics tools and principles. 10% discount for NHS staff.View MSc Health Economics for Health Professionals
Master of Public Health (MPH)
Join an online Master of Public Health (MPH) you can tailor to your career. Study with experts and choose from a wide range of courses to focus your training. 10% discount for NHS staff.View Master of Public Health (MPH)
Build your learning with more short courses
We have a range of online healthcare and medicine short courses you can use to build your skills.
Many carry credits you can build up into postgraduate qualifications, including Masters degrees:
Your employer or professional institute may recognise this course for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Talk to your employer or institute to find out more.
We welcome students from all over the world.
This course has no formal entry requirements. You do not need to provide proof of your qualifications.
But you do need to check the entry guidance above to understand the level of teaching delivered, to decide if this course is right for you.
If you do not have qualifications from the UK, check the equivalent teaching level for your country.
You do not need a visa to study online with us.
English language requirements
Teaching is delivered in English.
You do not have to provide proof of your English language skills to join this course. But we want to make sure that you can use English well enough to study successfully.
Recommended level of English
This course uses our Postgraduate Higher level of English language proficiency.
These are our Postgraduate Higher requirements, and these are minimum scores.
IELTS Academic and IELTS Online (not IELTS Indicator or IELTS General Training)
- 6.5 overall
- 5.5 for listening and speaking
- 6.0 for reading and writing
TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition
- 90 overall
- 17 for listening
- 21 for reading
- 20 for speaking
- 21 for writing
- TOEFL DI code is 0818
Cambridge English: B2 First, C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency
- 176 overall
- 162 for listening and speaking
- 169 for reading and writing
LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator (Written and Spoken)
- Overall High Pass
- 33 for listening, reading and speaking
- 38 for writing
PTE Academic (online test not accepted)
- 62 overall
- 59 for listening, reading, speaking and writing
For more information about language qualifications see our English Language Requirements page.
You will need access to:
A computer (PC, laptop or Mac) operating on either:
- Windows 10 or later
- macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later.
Most teaching materials are smartphone- and tablet-friendly. But we recommend a proper laptop or desktop for completing assignments comfortably.
Reliable internet access
- a wired connection
- a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps so you can take part fully in live sessions.
Speakers or headphones
- We recommend a headset with built-in microphone and earphones if you’re likely to study in an environment with background noise.
- A webcam is optional, but you may like to use one for some interactive sessions.
We’ll give you access to Office365 applications. This means you can use online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and install these programs on up to five personal devices.
If your course requires specialist software, we’ll provide you with access to this and a licence that lasts throughout your studies.
See our detailed IT requirements for more information.
When you study with us, you can expect a first-class support structure so that you’re never alone in your studies.
But learning online does mean you have to motivate yourself and manage your own time.
Your most important commitment to your course will be time – the time to work through, reflect on and understand your teaching materials.
Before you start a course that involves a high degree of independent study, we recommend looking at the time you will be able to devote to your course each week:
- Be realistic
- Create a weekly schedule as a guide
If you have any questions about studying online, get in touch with our friendly team. We’re here to help.
Your course fee needs to be paid in full before you start your course.
We accept payment via Visa Debit, Visa Credit and Mastercard.
Ways to save
You may be able to get help funding this course via:
- discounts – if any discounts are available for this course, they’ll appear in the section below
- employer sponsorship – we accept full and partial fee payments from sponsors.
All our students are entitled to a University of Aberdeen student card. This gives you access to a range of student discounts around the city and online.
This course has no formal entry requirements. You decide if it’s suitable for you.
The course is delivered at Masters level. At this level, you’d usually have at least:
- a 2:2 (second-class) undergraduate degree
- or relevant experience that supports this level of study.