Best Practices / Research Oral Abstract

Flying Blind: Facilitation of Online Interprofessional Education (O007)

Deanna Telner, MD, Med, CCFP (Assistant Professor, Dept of Family and Community Medicine, Toronto East General Hospital); Heather MacNeill, MD, BSc(PT), FRCPC (Assistant Professor, Dept of Medicine, University of Toronto, Bridgepoint Hospital); Elizabeth Hanna, MHSc., Reg.CASLPO (Lecturer, Dept of Speech Language Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Bridgepoint Hospital); Barbara Soren, PhD (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Bridgepoint Hospital); Mandy Lowe, MSc, BSc(OT) (University of Toronto, Director of Education TRI, Associate Director, Centre for Interprofessional Education (IPE)); Scott Reeves, PhD (Director of Research, Centre for Faculty Development, Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre & Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital; Scientist, Wilson Centre for Research in Education & Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto)


Online synchronous interprofessional facilitationeach of these adjectives adds their own complexity to facilitation in continuing education. This mixed methods study explored the experience, training and outcomes of seven co-facilitators in this setting. Additional challenges of technology and the reduction in non-verbal cues require more training, support and preparation, but allow for new opportunities to build on previous facilitation skills.


Online educational opportunities overcome barriers of time and distance often encountered in continuing interprofessional education (IPE). Effective facilitation of online IPE learning experiences is crucial in fostering productive collaborative learning, yet there is much to be learned in this area. The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of facilitators in an online IPE program and put forth suggestions to optimize successful facilitation in this setting.


Seven facilitators worked in pairs co-facilitating a 12 week online IPE course with a synchronous (real time) collaborative component. A mixed methods design was employed. Self assessment surveys were completed before a targeted faculty development that prepared the facilitators for this task and after completion of the course. A 6 month follow-up survey examined longer term changes. Qualitative results from focus group and key informant interviews were analyzed by manual coding and quantitative surveys were analyzed with SPSS.


Technology and the reduction in non-verbal cues provided the greatest challenges for online facilitators. Having a back-up plan for technology issues was essential. Similarities to face-to-face (F2F) IPE facilitation included the value of reflective pre-planning, positive experience of co-facilitation and the need for less directive facilitation over time.


Excellent IPE F2F facilitation skills appear to be transferable to the online setting, however additional challenges of technology and the reduction in non-verbal cues require more training, support (e.g. co-facilitation) and preparation. Careful design of IPE facilitator training programs and resources will optimize success of meaningful online IP learning experiences.

Funding Sources

Continuing Education Development Fund, University of Toronto, HSBC Bank of Canada