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Didactic Physician Assistant Education in Light of SARS-CoV-2. Perceptions of PA Program Directors on the Use of an Online Curriculum: Has the Thinking Evolved?

Christopher L Furbee, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has presented both confusion and opportunity in medical education. The perception of program directors regarding the use of online learning options has been subject of debate but there are no studies that that discuss online modalities in didactic PA education. This study aims to determine program director perceptions of didactic online education prior to and since the onset of the pandemic and discuss their experiences with pedagogical modifications. Through grounded theory methodology, seven program directors were interviewed and discussed perceptions of online didactic PA education over the past eighteen months, the challenges each program encountered during the transition, outcome comparison with previous cohorts comparing traditional versus online content delivery, and if they feel that there is a place in their program in the future for online content delivery. A constant comparative analysis demonstrated that program directors uniformly felt that prior to the pandemic, there was minimal interest in utilizing online methods of content delivery and that online didactic delivery was inferior to traditional lecture in achieving program outcome objectives. This perception was significantly altered after each program instituted online instruction for their cohorts and found that there appeared to be no significant measurable outcome disadvantages to online content delivery for didactic content lectures. There was, however, significant challenges across programs that required modification to practical time for physical, examination skills to remote learning modalities. Program directors also discussed correlation between the amount of time students spent together prior to initiating online curriculum and their level of stress. This study found support for future use of online methods for PA didactic content providing there was adequate in-person time allocated for practical application of skills required to meet program objectives. Further research into the student perceptions as well as a larger sample of programs as a result of the pandemic would be beneficial to the understanding of the lessons learned from programs.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Public Health Education|Educational psychology|Educational administration|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Furbee, Christopher L, "Didactic Physician Assistant Education in Light of SARS-CoV-2. Perceptions of PA Program Directors on the Use of an Online Curriculum: Has the Thinking Evolved?" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28713511.