Why Health Students Choose Web-Based Distance Education: Evidence from Pharmacy Education in Northern Sweden

Elise Essling [pharmacy.in.sweden@gmail.com], Sofia Mattsson [sofia.mattsson@umu.se], Umeå University, Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Neuroscience [www.umu.se], Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden, Gisselle Gallego [gisselle.gallego@umu.se], School of Medicine, The University of Notre Dame Australia, 160 Oxford Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia

Abstract

The classic model of undergraduate health professional education is based on on-campus studying, which limits access to education and possesses geographical barriers. There is a need for innovative ways to tackle the global shortage of health care professionals in rural areas. This study explored the motivating factors behind students’ participation in distance education, specifically in web-based online format. Quantitative and qualitative data from a pharmacy alumni survey with 216 graduates was combined with qualitative data from a focus group study with 53 students. Both graduates and current students mentioned flexibility as their main motivational factor in choosing distance education. Flexibility was important for students and graduates as they can combine studies with work and family commitments. Compared to those who provided different reasons, graduates, who chose to study pharmacy because it was distance education, were on average older, married or in a de facto relationship and had dependent children. The results from this study support the Swedish government’s aim and vision of lifelong learning which is becoming increasingly important to meet the requirements of the labour market for qualified health workers. Distance education could potentially address the shortages of these professionals in rural and remote areas by allowing flexible educational options.

Abstract in Sweeden

De flesta grundutbildningar inom hälso- och sjukvårdsområdet är campusutbildningar, vilket kan begränsa tillgången till utbildning och medföra geografiska hinder för vissa personer. Det finns behov av innovativa sätt att hantera den globala bristen på hälso- och sjukvårdspersonal i glesbefolkade områden. Denna studie undersöker motivationsfaktorer till varför studenter väljer att läsa distansutbildningar i ett webbaserat format. Kvantitativ och kvalitativ data från en enkätstudie med 216 alumner kombinerades med kvalitativ data från en fokusgruppsstudie med 53 studenter. Både alumner och studenter angav flexibilitet som deras huvudsakliga motivationsfaktor for att välja en distansutbildning. Flexibilitet var viktigt för att kunna kombinera studier med arbete och familjeliv. De som valde att läsa farmaci eftersom det var en distansutbildning var i genomsnitt äldre, gifta eller sambo och hade minderåriga barn jämfört med de som angav andra anledningar för att välja samma utbildning. Resultaten från denna studie stödjer den svenska regeringens vision om livslångt lärande vilket blir alltmer viktigt för att kunna uppfylla arbetsmarknadens krav på kvalificerad hälso- och sjukvårdspersonal. Distansutbildningar skulle kunna möta bristen på dessa professioner i glesbefolkade områden, eftersom distansutbildningar ger flexibla utbildningsmöjligheter.

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Tags

e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, ICT, information and communication technology, internet, collaborative learning, learning management system, MOOC, interaction, LMS,

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