228072 Factors contributing to successful engagement in on-line discussions in a global distance education program for public health professionals

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 11:06 AM - 11:24 AM

Rohit Ramaswamy, PhD, MPH , Public Health Leadership Program, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Des Moines, IA
Hollie Pavlica, DrPH, MSW , Public Health Leadership Program, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Diane Calleson, PhD , Public Health Leadership Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Kate Barker , Public Health Leadership Program, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
The need for building the skills of the global public health workforce has been identified by the WHO and distance learning has emerged as an inexpensive and accessible option to address this need. The Global Learning Program at UNC Chapel Hill, currently being piloted in eight countries, is a non-degree program intended to enhance management skills of public health practitioners. A key component of the program is the use of facilitated on-line discussion forums for promoting cross-country knowledge sharing and joint problem solving. This presentation examines the factors that contribute to the success of these forums. In the discussion forums, participants focus on the application of the content to a case study or to their own work. Maintaining the quality and consistency of on-line discussions has been a challenge . Our evaluation of the pilot included several methods for assessing reasons for this. In this presentation, the results of our evaluation and our interventions to address the issues identified are described. Our data collection consisted of a baseline survey to assess participants' distance learning readiness, a telephone interview with each participant, and detailed face-to-face interviews with selected participants after they completed multiple learning units. Detailed participation statistics from the learning management systems were also used. Work pressures, internet access in the field, time commitments and organizational support emerged as proximal factors, but individual, organizational and cultural attitudes towards sharing knowledge are other factors influencing participation. Our findings will be useful to other organizations involved in training the international health workforce.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Identify the factors that affect engagement in on-line discussions among participants from different countries enrolled in a global distance learning program. Discuss the relative importance of these factors and their effect on the quality and consistency of the discussion. Describe solutions to address these factors and improve the quality of interactions.

Keywords: Distance Education Development, International Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted all the evaluation and data analysis for the project
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.