CCE Theses and Dissertations


Development of an Instructional Design Model for Problem-Based Online Learning Environments in Continuing Medical Education

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Trudy Abramson

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Helen St. Aubin


Traditional methods that emphasize didactics and rote learning seem deficient to some medical educators. These approaches typically emphasize knowledge acquisition and retention of little relevance to practice. To improve problem solving, knowledge retention, and transfer, the educational strategy and philosophy of problem-based learning (PBL) is being used in medical education on-ground, face-to-face settings. The information age and advances in information technology now provide exciting new online education alternatives for physicians wanting to use this method to meet lifelong learning needs. The challenge for the instructional designer is how to migrate established face-to-face instructional methods to the online environment.

The goal of this dissertation was to provide a unique instructional design model that details criteria to guide the development of online PBL environments in continuing medical education (CME). The work addresses the following research questions: What influence should learning theory have on the instructional architecture of online PBL used to educate professionals in medical practice? How can computer technologies used in online instruction delivery incorporate relevant learning theories and cognitive principles to deliver effective online learning environments (OLEs) using the PBL method? What are the necessary elements in the development and implementation of a validated instructional design model for delivering online PBL in CME? This developmental research project also described how an OLE could be developed for physician continuing education in pain management along framework guidelines in order to illustrate concepts in the model and how it could be adapted to accommodate the course content of a particular medical specialty. Lessons learned in the process and implications for instructional design practice were discussed.

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