Measuring student engagement in a fully online programme in public health
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School of Health Systems and Public Health, University of Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa
University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A674
Background and Objective: The maximum period of study for a Master of Public Health degree at our university is two years (part-time). The majority of students works full time and the compulsory attendance of modules usually far exceeds the number of leave weeks that our students routinely have. The entry requirement is broad and does not require a previous degree in public health. The decision was therefore made to include all the foundational modules in a fully online postgraduate diploma in public health and make this programme an entry requirement for the Master programme. One concern was whether fully employed mature students would engage in online learning. Methods: A document review was done of the all offerings of the first module in the curriculum in 2022. The number of academic discussion posts (excluding group submissions), academic emergency posts and social posts were calculated as a percentage of enrolments. Similarly, the completion of the three possible achievement badges was calculated. A Welcome Badge was for all those who introduced themselves; A Corona Badge was awarded to those who achieved at least 50% for in-video assessments, and a Calculus Badge was for those who achieved 75% for statistics-related quizzes. Results: A total of 970 students were enrolled in one of the six modules that met the inclusion criteria. The engagement rate in academic discussions was 2 115% (or a total of 20 522 posts). The engagement rate of students who posted in the Emergency Room (a discussion board to post problems and receive help) was 250%. There was less engagement in the social space/coffee chat room (110%). The success rate for one or more of the three possible badges was 71% (average). Conclusions: A fully-online programme in public health that is designed (and rewards) online engagement can ensure student engagement.