The impact of synchronous hybrid instruction on students’ engagement in a pharmacotherapy course

Main Article Content

Keywords

Distance learning, Online learning, Self-Directed learning;, Pharmacy education, Pharmacy students

Abstract

Background: Background: Synchronous hybrid instruction offers flexible learning opportunities by allowing a portion of students to attend class sessions on campus while simultaneously allowing the remaining students to attend remotely. Although such flexibility may offer a number of advantages for pharmacy students, one area of concern is whether online participation options within synchronous hybrid courses can promote similar levels of engagement as courses that are designed entirely for face-to-face (FTF) participation. Objectives: The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of synchronous hybrid instruction on pharmacy students’ engagement in a pharmacotherapy course. An evaluation was completed to determine if students were more likely to actively engage in class when they were participating remotely via teleconferencing technology or when FTF. Additionally, students’ perspectives were evaluated to determine their views of the benefits and challenges of the hybrid model for engagement in learning. Methods: The course utilizes team-based learning to apply critical thinking skills and develop a comprehensive care plan. A mixed methods approach was used to examine students’ engagement in the hybrid learning environment by quantitatively analyzing students’ responses to likert-scale survey items and qualitatively analyzing their responses to open-ended survey questions. Results: Students reported they were more likely to actively listen (p=0.004), avoid distractions (p=0.008), and react emotionally to a topic or instruction (p=0.045) when FTF. There were no significant differences found in student reported note taking, asking questions, responding to questions, or engaging in group work between the two modes of participation. Content analysis identified other benefits that supported student engagement, including perceived flexibility and enhanced ability to interact during class via the teleconferencing technology. For some students, challenges that negatively impacted engagement included difficulties with internet connectivity and a sense of dislocation or isolation in the course. Conclusion: This study demonstrated that when participating in a synchronous hybrid course, students participating remotely were less likely (compared to in-person attendance) to pay close attention and react emotionally, but were just as likely to take notes and communicate with teachers and groups. Key benefits of the hybrid approach were increased flexibility and the usefulness of online communication tools, while key challenges focused on technical and psychological isolation from others. The principles of flexible learning environments and self-regulated learning provide opportunities for pharmacy educators who are interested in improving hybrid instruction in the future.

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