MANUSCRIPT: Learning styles and preferences for live and distance education: an example of a specialisation course in epidemiology
Distance learning through the internet is increasingly popular in higher education. However, it is unknown how participants in epidemiology courses value live vs. distance education.
All participants of a 5-day specialisation course in epidemiology were asked to keep a diary on the number of hours they spent on course activities (both live and distance education). Attendance was not compulsory during the course and participants were therefore also asked for the reasons to attend live education (lectures and practicals). In addition, the relation between participants? learning styles (Index of Learning Styles) and their participation in live and distance education was studied.
All 54 (100%) participants in the course completed the questionnaire on attendance and 46 (85%) completed the questionnaire on learning styles. The number of hours attending live education was negatively correlated with the number of hours going studying distance learning materials (Pearson correlation ?0.5; p?<?0.001). The most important reasons to attend live education was to stay focused during lectures (50%), and to ask questions during practicals (50%). A lack of time was the most important reason not to attend lectures (52%) or practicals (61%). Learning styles were not association with the number of hours spent on live or distance education.
Distance learning may play an important role in epidemiology courses, since it allows participants to study whenever and wherever they prefer, which provides the opportunity to combine courses with clinical duties. An important requirement for distance learning education appears to be the possibility to ask questions and to interact with instructors.