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J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2009 Fall;29(4):235-41. doi: 10.1002/chp.20041.

UK health-care professionals' experience of on-line learning techniques: a systematic review of qualitative data.

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  • 1School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S1 4DA, UK.



Continuing professional development and education is vital to the provision of better health services and outcomes. The aim of this study is to contribute to the evidence base by performing a systematic review of qualitative data from studies reporting health professionals' experience of e-learning. No such previous review has been published.


A systematic review of qualitative data reporting UK health professionals' experiences of the ways in which on-line learning is delivered by higher education and other relevant institutions. Evidence synthesis was performed with the use of thematic analysis grounded in the data.


Literature searches identified 19 relevant studies. The subjects of the studies were nurses, midwives, and allied professions (8 studies), general practitioners and hospital doctors (6 studies), and a range of different health practitioners (5 studies). The majority of courses were stand-alone continuing professional development modules. Five key themes emerged from the data: peer communication, flexibility, support, knowledge validation, and course presentation and design.


The effectiveness of on-line learning is mediated by the learning experience. If they are to enhance health professionals' experience of e-learning, courses need to address presentation and course design; they must be flexible, offer mechanisms for both support and rapid assessment, and develop effective and efficient means of communication, especially among the students themselves.

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