Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Characteristics of Experiential Education Web Sites of US Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Characteristics of Experiential Education Web Sites of US Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Experiential education programs within colleges and schools of pharmacy must communicate with and provide information to preceptors and students about their programs and practice experiences. Printed materials and phone have historically been the main types of communication used by experiential education offices and are still employed. However, in the last 15 years, the Internet has become the primary means of rapidly disseminating information about processes and procedures, as well as news relevant to experiential education. To facilitate navigation and use, Web site design is critical and should be regularly evaluated. Web-based information and downloadable documents need to be easy to find and provide the resources that Web site visitors are seeking. New innovations in social media allow two-way communication between the school and Web site visitors, the content of which, unlike e-mail, is visible to other visitors and may contain useful information.

The Office of Experiential Education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy was interested in improving the utility and appearance of its experiential education Web site and the information provided therein. To evaluate the Web site, a review of other colleges' and schools' experiential education Web sites was undertaken to gather "best practice" ideas. A literature search revealed no other studies on the content or quality of experiential education Web sites in pharmacy or other health professions literature. Therefore, the publically available experiential education Web sites of US colleges and schools of pharmacy were viewed and a comprehensive assessment of select characteristics was conducted.

METHODS

A comprehensive list of all US colleges and schools of pharmacy was accessed through the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Web site using the Pharmacy School Locator engine. (1) Each of the 124 Web sites was visited and studied from June 25 to July 5, 2012. If a Web site link was found to be inactive, a general Internet search was conducted for the college or school. Once at the main Web site, the experiential education pages were located by identifying terms such as "experiential education," "preceptors," and "practice experiences" on the main page or on subpages. If no apparent links were present, the Web site's search engine was used to search for the terms "experiential" and "preceptor." Only experiential education Web sites that were publically available were sought; thus, if a college or school only had a private Web site for their preceptors and students, this was not included in the study.

Information was collected on several aspects of each site. The official name of the experiential education program or office was noted. The student practice experience management software used by the college or school was identified, including if a direct link was provided for preceptors and students. The availability of a newsletter specifically from the experiential education office was determined and the format in which it was available (eg, downloadable document or Web-embedded) was noted. Newsletters were judged to be "active" if the most recent edition had been posted within the last 6 months and "old" if posted more than 6 months before. Links to an overall school-based newsletter were not counted. The availability and format of any experiential education manual(s) for students and/or preceptors was recorded.

Preceptor development is an important function in experiential education so any programs being promoted or links provided were noted, including format and online accessibility. Whether the site provided instructions for Web site visitors who wanted to become preceptors was noted, particularly if a downloadable application or a Web-based online application process was available. Finally, whether the experiential education Web site included any social media or other Web-based forums through which students and/or preceptors could communicate directly with the experiential education staff was documented. …

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