Overcoming the Barriers to Promoting Online Interprofessional Education

Overcoming the Barriers to Promoting Online Interprofessional Education

Dawn Forman (University of Chichester, UK & Curtin University, Australia & Auckland University of Technology (AUT), New Zealand) and Marion Jones (Auckland University of Technology (AUT), New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-889-0.ch015


It is not always transparent how e-learning can facilitate the interaction necessary for individuals to learn with, from and about each other as advocated by CAIPE (2002). This chapter emphasises the critical importance of facilitators acquiring new techniques to enable learners to make optimum use of the opportunities provided by Electronic Interprofessional Education (EIPE). To understand how barriers to online interprofessional education can be overcome, it is necessary to understand approaches to the development of positive e-learning environments. With this understanding, e-learning in supporting Interprofessional Education can be implemented more smoothly for both academic staff and students.
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With the publication of the World Health Organisation’s (2009) new Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice, the world is again being encouraged to get to grips with interprofessional education and the ways it shapes practice. There is a need to provide convenient, accessible and flexible education that supports collaborative practice (MacDonald, Stodel, & Chambers, 2008). Any approach adopted must underpin the principles of teaching and learning so that, during the learning journey, the learner progresses at their own pace whether they are new to higher education, working on an undergraduate degree programme, or bringing experience from practice into a postgraduate learning context.

At the same time, the E-prefix is ever-present these days, from ecommerce to e-learning. Technologies such as Facebook, IPODs, Wickis, portals and virtual worlds are likely to be familiar to today’s learners, so learning providers need a high level of awareness of them and to incorporate them where effective. Research by Huws, Jagger and Bates (2001) reports that the creation of ‘E-Indicators’ has resulted in a database covering 204 countries and including 171 variables. This proliferation reinforces the need to incorporate information and communication technologies in any education provision.

This learning journey needs therefore to bring together the benefits of interprofessional education and e-learning to address the needs of the health care student. First, however, the perceived barriers to IPEL must be understood and overcome. Biggs (2003, p. 213) stresses that the globalisation of education has coincided with the development of information technology, so there are enormous pressures on teachers to get to understand and harness this technology, not only to improve their teaching but also to enable their university to sell their learning wares across the world.

However, quality management systems must not be compromised by an assumption that e-learning is a default solution in every learning context. The alignment of course objectives, assessments and learning strategies is critical to engage learners in multiple learning activities. These must be interactive and lead to assessment and quality teaching that considers different learning styles. If this is ignored, the e-learning process itself can become a barrier to learning.

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