QUALITY ASSESSMENT AND IMPROVEMENT OF A BLENDED LEARNING DOCTOR OF PHARMACY PROGRAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) is a professional degree intended to train students for advanced clinical pharmacy practice. In addition to a full-time study plan, the PharmD program at Qatar University (QU) is also offered to pharmacists who wish to continue their post-baccalaureate training part-time as a working professional in the country. These graduate students are “place-bound” - unable to discontinue their work to regularly attend live classroom-based courses, but are still motivated to continue their education. The blended learning experience design of our part-time PharmD (PTPD) program is a hybrid of distance-based (asynchronous) delivery of instructional content recorded to undergraduate students on-campus (ECHO360® lecture capture) with monthly live (synchronous) face-to-face didactic and interactive activity on-campus over 2 years (the didactic phase) to prepare students for their third-year clinical placements (the internship phase). Ours is the only QU program currently administering its content in this blended format and so means for quality assurance has been initiated internally at the College-level.
To conduct a systematic assessment of the didactic phase of the QU part-time PharmD (PTPD) program according to existing best practice standards of distance learning.
A comprehensive review of published rubrics for the assessment of the quality of online courses was conducted. Content and formatting of 4 main tools were used to model a 73 item instrument for QU PTPD course coordinator self-assessment and blinded assessment of another two peers’ courses. This same tool was then used for external peer review of all PTPD courses by two faculty members at the University of Bath where distance education programming in pharmacy is well-established.
Seven QU faculty conducted self-assessment and peer-assessment of 28 courses delivered across the past two academic years. While most courses met criteria for instructional strategies, deficiencies in certain fundamental online delivery principles, were identified across courses, specifically items related to learner support and resources and alignment of student evaluation and assessment. External peer review found additional opportunities to improve student communication, interaction, and communication.
Self-assessment, internal and external peer-assessments are important exercises to identify opportunities to augment the delivery of online content, ensure coherence with synchronous activities and therefore enhance the learning experience of our students. An accompanying student satisfaction study will further inform additional quality improvements.