Purpose: provide an online forum for physical therapy students during clinical rotations and assess its influence on communication, peer learning and overall clinical experience. Methods: Inclusion criteria: students in their 3rd year of the physical therapy education program at the University of New Mexico, participating in a clinical rotation. 24 subjects agreed to participate in an open WebCT based discussion board. This study included 24 participants (17 females, 7 males) with an age range between 23 and 51. Students were administered a pre and post clinical rotation questionnaire in regards to peer learning, communication, peer support, and overall experience outcomes. The students were registered for the clinical education class through WebCT to gain access to the discussion board. The discussion board was available for 8 weeks and monitored daily for content accuracy and student involvement. The pre and post-participation questionnaires were analyzed separately and the information was treated as ordinal data. Statistical calculations for averages were performed for each response utilizing the Likert scale. Responses that did not use the Likert scale were calculated to determine percentages. Open-ended questions were assessed for themes and compared to the available literature. At the conclusion of the physical therapy student clinical rotation the WebCT account and link were removed. Results: 100% (24 of 24) of the students agreed to participate in this study. Physical therapy students place significant value on the importance of peer learning, 2 the potential to communicate through an online discussion board, benefit of maintaining contact throughout clinical rotations using an online discussion board, using peers for support, and using peers as a learning resource. A total of 115 posts were made during the 8-week availability of the online discussion board. This demonstrates an average of 4.6 posts per student. Waves of participation were shown throughout the entire 8-weeks. According to the final responses given in the post-participation questionnaire, the students moderately agreed that the discussion board provided a way to learn from peers, improved overall clinical experience, and provided an avenue to receive peer support. Discussion/Conclusions: Several themes developed while assessing the responses to open ended questions. Some of these themes were not seen in previous literature. For instance, students were pleased with the freedom to post and visit the discussion board without requirements. They also enjoyed that it was informal and impersonal. In terms of peer support, students credited their peers with providing words of encouragement, increasing confidence by posting similar experiences, and providing advice and sympathy. Cost, time commitment and labor are limited when implementing the discussion board through WebCT. To ensure accuracy and quality of use, a faculty moderator is needed to monitor the discussion board regularly. This study demonstrates benefits of incorporating an online discussion board to facilitate clinical education rotations and warrants future use.


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Document Type



student outcomes, WebCT, physical therapy student