AFFORDANCE: Assessing the Feasibility of Online Rotational Delivery of a Northwestern Course in Electrotherapeutics

Margaret Danilovich, PT, DPT, PhD

Jane E. Sullivan, PT, DHS, MS


  • “Blended learning” combines available technology with traditional teaching.
  • There is a paucity of information on the use and effectiveness of blended learning in physical therapist education, and none in the domain of electrotherapy.
  • Research on blended learning in university settings is in its infancy.  This presents a challenge for educators in knowing how to effectively utilize blended learning models.


To describe the development and assessment of a “blended learning” approach combining online modules and face-to-face activities in a Doctor of Physical Therapist (DPT) degree program.

Description of Project:


  • Electrotherapy course in the 2nd year of 3-year DPT curriculum
  • 92 DPT students
  • Blended learning with online instructional modules prior to to in-class, hands-on laboratory & discussion sessions

Online Content:

  • 7 hours of didactic content was converted to online modules using Articulate Storyline 2© (Articulate Global, Inc.).

Click on the picture to see a video about how the modules were organized.Screen Shot - storyboard


  • Presentation slides that had previously been used in a face-to-face delivery course were adapted using the software._DSC7310
  • 8 online modules were created.
  • Modules were available via Canvas.
  • Students were able to view the modules on an iPad or computer. All students in our DPT program have iPads.
  • Modules were organized to allow students to move through content at their own pace, with navigation buttons and an onscreen menu.

Click on the picture to see a video of the module organization/navigation.

Menu slide

    • Modules were 20 minutes or less.
    • Narrated content slides were interspersed with interactive learning activities

Examples of learning activities – click on each picture to view a video of a learning activity.

Reflective Question -Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 7.18.46 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.02.00 PM
Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.04.45 PM Point your cursor question 2

To view how additional resources elements were included in the modules

The class had 3 elements:

1. Online 







2. Lab sessions 



3. Discussion sessions

Student Performance Assessment:

  • Written, online, & practical exams

 Evaluation of Blended Learning:

Data Analysis:

  • We used a concurrent mixed methods approach for descriptive statistics, quantitative survey items, & qualitative open-ended survey responses.


  • Student performance on written, online, and practical exams was comparable to, or better than prior classes where a face-to-face delivery method was employed.
  • 53 (77%) reported taking 31 – 120 minutes to complete each online module.
  • Students indicated that they completed the modules at various times, including weekends, evenings, in the late afternoon, and in the morning before morning class.

Student perceptions:

  • 69 (75%) of students completed the blended learning evaluation
  • 4 themes emerged regarding the positive benefits of blended learning:
    • Ability to repeat information
    • Ability to complete modules at their own pace
    • Ability to complete modules on their own schedule
    • Formative assessment via the interactive learning activities
  • 2 themes emerged regarding student preferences for blended learning:
    • Faculty accessibility
      • Students preferred not to have to email faculty members with questions
    • Technology use
      • Students had to utilize additional browser (Puffin) to access modules

Recommendations for the Future:DSC08564b

The use of blended learning in DPT electrotherapy education offers exciting opportunities in evolving DPT curriculums.

  1. DPT programs often struggle to identify faculty qualified to teach this content. Blended learning may present opportunities for multiple DPT programs to share resources.
  2. Blended learning may be the first step in the development of a MOOC for DPT programs to pool resources and standardize training across students.
  3. The use of blended learning affords learners an opportunity to engage in course materials in a self-paced manner, better meeting the needs of adult, millennial learners.

Lessons learned:

While the up-front time for faculty to develop online modules was greater than with the traditional lecture format, the online instruction provided greater flexibility in scheduling for both students and faculty. We need to ensure that students understand how to  effectively utilize the technology and to reach faculty with questions.DSC08532b

Next steps:

  • Explore development of modules in other DPT courses
  • Consider collaboration with neighboring institutions with DPT educational programs


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