American Physican Therapy Combined Sections Meeting

Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Purpose: The purpose of this special interest report is to review the effectiveness of e-learning in comparison to traditional classroom learning by exploring different methods of implementation of e-learning into PT curriculum

Description: Education delivery via e-Learning is becoming a common teaching mode that appeals to students because it can be completed asynchronously at a self-directed pace and reviewed anytime, anywhere and as often as necessary for understanding. Translating knowledge from eLearning materials to skill performance is important to consider for PT students due to the requirements of psychomotor performance and demonstration of appropriate affective professional behaviors.

Literature review: A literature search was conducted through PubMed and Scopus utilizing the following key terms: e-learning, blended learning, physical therapy, practical examination and clinical skills. The search resulted in eight studies, in which four were chosen for critical review as they most closely aligned with the question of interest and compared the use of adjunctive e-learning methods to a control group who received only traditional, face to face lecture, lab, and access to textbooks. In each study, at least one outcome measure assessed clinical skill performance based on a practical examination. No study reported negative impacts of e-Learning.

Summary of Use: In each study, students who utilized e-learning to enhance their understanding of the material performed slightly higher on the practical exam, but not all findings were statistically significant. However, e-Learning was well-received and physical therapy students reported having more confidence, less anxiety and better understanding of grading standards prior to the practical exam. Since most students entering physical therapy school are digital natives the utilization of e-learning may relate well to their learning styles. E-learning may be more sustainable over time than traditional teaching methods and affords the learner individualization, self-paced learning and instructional consistency.

Importance to Members: This review supports the idea that e-learning could be successfully utilized in a DPT curriculum as the results show clinical skills performance outcomes with e-learning are at least as good as traditional classroom instruction. Because clinical skills require professional interactions and psychomotor demonstration, e-learning is likely best utilized as a complementary means of learning, but not as a stand-alone source of instruction. Educational institutions may be able to extrapolate this information to achieve long-term cost savings and resource management within their educational programs. Overall, students continue to value in-class time to discuss material at a higher level, work through clinical cases, and ask questions for clarification of course content and objectives.