The prevalence of cohesive learning communities in online health information technology programs.
The demand for Health Information Management professionals is growing more rapidly than the supply. Existing educational programs cannot keep pace with the workforce needs of current and future healthcare. Expansion of educational delivery methods is required to increase access to appropriate training. Traditional face-to-face educational programs have enjoyed small enrollments and close working relationships between and among faculty and students. However, migration to an online environment does not foretell the sacrifice of these cohesive learning communities. Through the use of computer-mediated conferencing, collaboration and interaction are enhanced. This thesis examined the current learning environment in three online Health Information Technology programs. Ninety-two students from first year and second year classes were surveyed to determine the strength of their learning communities. Cohesive learning communities were reported and significant correlations were discovered between the strength of the learning communities and the students’ experience with computer-mediated conferencing, their satisfaction with their courses and their programs. Hopefully, these results will serve as inspiration to potential online Health Information Technology educators to expand their offerings and open access to non-traditional learners who require or desire the flexibility that distance education can provide.