A distance delivery model to improve accessibility to post-diploma baccalaureate level dental hygiene education.
Cobban, Sandra J.
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Dental hygiene practice is grappling with change as it adapts to the rapidly evolving health care delivery system, and dental hygiene education must respond to the changing needs of its graduates. Dental hygienists and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association see a need for increasing access to baccalaureate degree dental hygiene education in Canada. Changes in student demographics require flexibility in curriculum delivery. A post-diploma baccalaureate degree program for dental hygienists that is available by distance delivery methods is one mechanism by which to increase access to post-diploma baccalaureate educational opportunities. The purposes of this study were to identify the challenges dental hygienists face as potential learners, to propose a model for a post-diploma dental hygiene baccalaureate degree-completion program for delivery by distance methods, and to suggest appropriate distance delivery methods for courses that would lead to a baccalaureate degree. To achieve these purposes, two surveys were undertaken. A survey of a stratified random sample of 668 members of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association was conducted to identify learning preferences of dental hygienists who would enrol in a post-diploma baccalaureate degree program. Fifty-seven post-diploma dental hygiene baccalaureate degree programs in Canada and the United States were surveyed to determine the curriculum content and delivery mechanisms of these programs. Response rates were 57.6% for the survey of dental hygienists and 57.9% for the survey of the dental hygiene programs. Dental hygienists are motivated to pursue baccalaureate education by a desire for increased knowledge and for personal satisfaction. They are constrained in their pursuits by a need for flexibility in scheduling, and by family and work obligations. Dental hygienists perceive the barriers or constraints to have a stronger influence than the motivators, as evidenced by higher mean scores in their ratings of these factors. They prefer to pursue baccalaureate education by means of correspondence, computer-based communication/Internet, or evening or weekend classes in their home communities. They are not interested in full-time study or weekend classes in a distant community. They have access to and are comfortable using computers and e-mail. Current dental hygiene post-diploma degree programs are not accessible by the delivery methods that dental hygienists indicate they prefer. Current post-diploma baccalaureate dental hygiene degree programs were most likely to be 120 semester hour credits in length, transfer 60 credits from the diploma, more with an articulation agreement, have a residency requirement of 30 credits, and require a minimum grade point average and National Board exam for admission. They were not likely to require a clinical component but were likely to offer specialization components. They offer a blend of advanced dental hygiene and liberal studies, but were not likely to offer the program by distance delivery methods. A model, including program specifications and a sample curriculum, has been proposed for distance delivery of a post-diploma baccalaureate dental hygiene degree.