A Web-Based Course on Public Health Principles in Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response: Survey Among Students and Faculty.
Tam G., Chan EYY., Liu S.
BACKGROUND: Web-based public health courses are becoming increasingly popular. "Public Health Principles in Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response" is a unique Web-based course in Hong Kong. This course aimed to fill a public health training gap by reaching out to postgraduates who are unable to access face-to-face learning. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this paper was to use a structured framework to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of a Web-based course according to Greenhalgh et al's quality framework and the Donabedian model to make recommendations for program improvement. METHODS: An interim evaluation of the first cohort of students in 2014 was conducted according to the Donabedian model and a quality framework by Greenhalgh et al using objective and self-reported data. RESULTS: Students who registered for the first cohort (n=1152) from June 16, 2014 to December 15, 2014 (6 months) were surveyed. Two tutors and the course director were interviewed. The Web-based course was effective in using technology to deliver suitable course materials and assessment and to enhance student communication, support, and learning. Of the total number of students registered, 59.00% (680/1152) were nonlocal, originating from 6 continents, and 72.50% (835/1152) possessed a bachelor's or postgraduate degree. The completion rate was 20.00% (230/1152). The chi-square test comparing students who completed the course with dropouts showed no significant difference in gender (P=.40), age (P=.98), occupation (P=.43), or qualification (P=.17). The cost (HK $272 per student) was lower than that of conducting a face-to-face course (HK $4000 per student). CONCLUSIONS: The Web-based course was effective in using technology to deliver a suitable course and reaching an intended audience. It had a higher completion rate than other Web-based courses. However, sustainable sources of funding may be needed to maintain the free Web-based course.