Impact of In-Person Vs Virtual Class Instruction in a Large Interprofessional Class
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic forced a pedagogical shift in education, moving many courses online. This study assessed the impact of moving a large-scale, semester-long interprofessional education (IPE) course from in-person to an online format. Approximately 500 students from five health-science programs (dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work) are placed in fixed interprofessional teams that have at least one member from each discipline.
Methods: All enrolled students from two cohorts were analyzed: 2019 (fully in-person) and 2021 (fully synchronous remote). Due to curricular conflicts, medical students participated for three weeks in 2019 and five weeks in 2021. Students from all other disciplines participated in the 13-week semester. At the end of the term, all students completed the Interprofessional Collaborative Competencies Attainment Survey (ICCAS) and a faculty-developed survey assessing teamwork and collaboration. Data were analyzed by cohort to assess learning, and across cohorts to determine whether the shift to the online format affected learning.
Results: Significant gains were seen in the post- vs pre-scores for the individual ICCAS items in 2019 and 2021 for both non-medical and medical students. When ICCAS data were evaluated by domain, post-course percent agreement was similar across all six domains for non-medical students in both cohorts. In contrast, there were significant increases in four of the six domains for medical students in 2021 vs 2019. Similarly, self-perceived ability to collaborate interprofessionally was consistent in 2019 and 2021 for non-medical students, and increased for medical students.
Conclusions: ICCAS data support significant and similar gains in learning regardless of course delivery format. Data from approximately 350 non-medical students in each cohort indicate no negative impact on learning with the move to the online format. Learning gains were also seen for 170 medical students in each cohort, with the gains being greater in 2021 when medical students spent more time with their team, suggesting that additional time in the course has a positive impact.
Implications: The synchronous virtual format offered advantages such as increased ease in bringing learners together, and did not negatively impact learning for interprofessional practice. Data from medical students supports that time together matters resulting in increased learning gains with increased time spent with the team. This information informs pedagogical approaches for future IPE offerings with the goal of finding ways to mirror in-person engagement to allow for relationship building while utilizing a virtual platform to address logistical barriers associated with bringing learners physically together.