Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Distance Education Course in Statistics

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Distance Education Course in Statistics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

There has been an explosion in the number of new pharmacy colleges and schools in the United States in the past decade. However, the high cost of starting a college or school of pharmacy and the difficulties in finding qualified faculty members have spurred exploration of other options for training pharmacists. Existing colleges and schools have increased the size of their on-campus classes and expanded their distance education programs.

In September 2002, the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in Gainesville opened distance campuses in Jacksonville, Orlando, and St. Petersburg, FL. The college started the distance program to meet the demand for more pharmacists, address the lack of space on the founding campus, and fulfill the college's strategic plan for improving cultural diversity and access to a pharmacy education for persons with geographic limitations. In compliance with requirements of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), articles describing the effectiveness of the program as a whole (1,2) and educational technology assessments (3) have been published. This study examines the innovations and assessment of a course that was restructured from a face-to-face delivery format to a primarily Internet-based delivery format presented to students on both the founding and distance campuses.

At the time the university launched its distance programs, the evidence regarding online distance education was sparse. Since then, studies have been published and a meta analysis conducted by the Department of Education. (4) Given ACPE's concerns about student learning in online/hybrid versus traditional face-to-face classroom courses, we conducted an outcome evaluation of a course that was designed to prepare students to critically evaluate the statistical analyses of articles found in the primary literature. The primary objective of the study was to determine whether there was a significant difference between the average scores for the baseline and final examinations. The secondary objectives were to examine the internal validity of the study and factors associated with successful completion of the course.

DESIGN

The Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Pharmacy course was designed primarily to be a Web-based course. The course's lectures (Appendix 1) were produced by the course faculty member using Camtasia (TechSmith, Okemos, MI), converted into digital format (mp4 file), placed within the college's course management system, and video streamed to students. This gave students the ability to view the lectures at any time, start and stop the lectures, and repeat the lecture material whenever they wanted. The blueprint for each lecture was to: (1) provide 1 or more scenarios that describe the types of empiric questions appropriate for the statistical test that is the lecture topic, (2) provide the formulas for the statistical test, (3) describe conceptually the components of the formula for the test (eg, difference between the group means divided by the groups' pooled variability for the t test), (4) calculate an example, (5) use a 6-step algorithm to demonstrate testing the research question, (6) interpret correctly the result of the statistical test, and (7) explain the appropriate use and application of the statistical test in the recent literature.

In addition to the lectures, the course had elements that required students to interact with the course content beyond the lectures. The first opportunity was with the course's workbooks and simulations (http://www.media. cop.ufl.edu/ids/workbooks/wb3/index.htm), which illustrated the principles and specific topics for the week. The workbook items were formatted as multiple-choice questions. If students answered correctly, they were provided with immediate feedback to further clarify issues associated with the question and then allowed to move to the next question. If students answered the question incorrectly, they also were provided with immediate feedback on why their choice was incorrect, but they were unable to move to the next question until they answered the current question correctly. …

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