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Abstract

Background & Purpose: Distance education (DE) is a means to meet allied health workforce needs in rural locations where healthcare worker shortages are apparent. Five allied health programs were expanded to a rural campus teaching synchronously using distance education technology. The purpose of this convergent parallel mixed methods study was to explore perceptions of allied health students and faculty at two campus locations.

Methods: Quantitative and qualitative information were collected through a survey of students and faculty (physical therapy, physician assistant, and medical imaging [diagnostic medical sonography, radiography, magnetic resonance imaging] programs). Both campuses served as live and distance sites depending on instructor location and area of content expertise. For example, morning courses may be taught live from one campus, and afternoon classes taught live from the other campus. Only one program, physical therapy, offered labs by distance education. Response distributions were compared for questions by campus using Cochran-Armitage trend tests and analyzed de-identified qualitative comments using constant comparisons to establish themes.

Results: Student (n=121) and faculty (n=19) mostly agreed distance education technology was effective for teaching and learning. Significant differences were found in student opinions about receiving a similar educational experience between the two campuses. More students at the Main campus somewhat or strongly disagreed (n=34, 37%) it was similar compared to the Rural campus (n= 5, 17%, p=0.024). There were no comments specifically related to the physical therapy lab experience. Open-ended comment themes included training, purposeful engagement of both campus locations, and setting clear expectations.

Conclusions: Although differences in learning experiences exist between the main and rural campus locations; the results indicated using distance education technology is an effective means to deliver the curriculum. Both students and faculty commented about the lack of experience with the educational technology before implementation. Synchronous, distance education offers the opportunity for program expansion and effective delivery of curriculum content. Using the results of this study can enhance future education in allied health professions using synchronous distance education technology.

Author Bio(s)

Betsy J. Becker, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Division of Physical Therapy Education in the College of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE.

Kelsey Rutt, BS, RT(R), RDMS is a former student in Diagnostic Medical Sonography in the Department of Medical Imaging and Therapeutic Sciences in the College of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Allyson Huntley, BS, RT(R), RDMS, RVT is a former student in Diagnostic Medical Sonography in the Department of Medical Imaging and Therapeutic Sciences in the College of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Harlan Sayles, MS is a Statistical Coordinator in the Department of Biostatistics in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Kim Michael, MA, RT(R), RDMS, RVT, FSDMS is the Associate Director of the Interprofessional Academy of Educators and Program Director, Associate Professor, and Anderson Distinguished Professor in Diagnostic Medical Sonography in the Department of Medical Imaging and Therapeutic Sciences in the College of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Cherie Kimble, Administrative Associate II in the College of Allied Health Professions (CAHP), for her hard work in formatting the survey and Fran Higgins, MA, ADWR, with communications, web and media in the CAHP for her assistance with final manuscript editing.

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