Practical guidelines to build Sense of Community in online medical education

Gerben H van der Meer*, Megan Milota, Roos de Jonge, Renée Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Sense of Community (SoC) refers to the cognitive or emotional connections established between physically separated learners; it is essential for study success. The recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for practical guidelines to facilitate building a SoC in online medical preclerkship education in the Netherlands. Therefore, this qualitative study aims to (a) examine perceptions of SoC from both students’ and teachers’ perspectives in an online elective course during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to (b) provide a conceptual framework with practical guidelines to medical educators on how to build SoC in online education. Methods: The study had an exploratory qualitative design. Semi-structured focus groups with student (n = 15) and teacher (n = 5) volunteers were conducted. Participants discussed their experienced SoC using the storyline method. In addition, course developers (n = 2) were interviewed and lecturers (n = 5) wrote an experience story. Audio- and video-recordings were transcribed verbatim and both the ensuing transcripts and experience stories were analysed using an inductive thematic analysis. Results: All students experienced an increase of SoC during the eight-week course. Five themes were identified: ‘social contacts made possible by a physical campus’, ‘group dynamics’, ‘teacher influence’, ‘education format’ and ‘teachers’ Sense of Community’. The authors formulated challenges and practical guidelines on how to build SoC based on these themes. Conclusions: This exploratory qualitative study provides a conceptual framework with practical guidelines for medical educators on how to build SoC in online medical preclerkship education. These guidelines provide a valuable starting point to build SoC in online education for medical educators and students alike.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-932
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Education
Volume55
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • basic science education
  • community based education
  • curriculum development/evaluation
  • qualitative research methods

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