Comparing student outcomes in traditional vs intensive, online graduate programs in health professional education.

Document Type

Journal Article

Study Type

Cohort Study

Publication Date

Fall 10-20-2018


BMC medical education [electronic resource]






Computer-Assisted Instruction; Curriculum; District of Columbia; Education, Distance; Education, Public Health Professional; Educational Measurement; Educational Status; Humans; Internet; Personal Satisfaction; Program Evaluation; Retrospective Studies; Schools, Health Occupations; Students, Health Occupations; Teaching


BACKGROUND: Health professions' education programs are undergoing enormous changes, including increasing use of online and intensive, or time reduced, courses. Although evidence is mounting for online and intensive course formats as separate designs, literature investigating online and intensive formats in health professional education is lacking. The purpose of the study was to compare student outcomes (final grades and course evaluation ratings) for equivalent courses in semester long (15-week) versus intensive (7-week) online formats in graduate health sciences courses.

METHODS: This retrospective, observational study compared satisfaction and performance scores of students enrolled in three graduate health sciences programs in a large, urban US university. Descriptive statistics, chi square analysis, and independent t-tests were used to describe student samples and determine differences in student satisfaction and performance.

RESULTS: The results demonstrated no significant differences for four applicable items on the final student course evaluations (p values range from 0.127 to 1.00) between semester long and intensive course formats. Similarly, student performance scores for final assignment and final grades showed no significant differences (p = 0.35 and 0.690 respectively) between semester long and intensive course formats.

CONCLUSION: Findings from this study suggest that 7-week and 15-week online courses can be equally effective with regard to student satisfaction and performance outcomes. While further study is recommended, academic programs should consider intensive online course formats as an alternative to semester long online course formats.

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