Lewis, McVAy-Dyche, Chen & Seto

Examining Sense of Community among Medical Professionals in an Online Program

Kadriye O. Lewis, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Jennifer McVay-Dyche, Excelsior College, New York, USA
Haiqin Chen, The American Dental Association, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Teresa L. Seto, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Division of Neonatology, Cincinnati, Ohio


As the number of online degree programs continues to grow, one of the greatest challenges is developing a sense of community among learners who do not convene at the same time and place. This study examined the sense of community among medical professionals in an online graduate program for healthcare professionals. We took the sample from a fully online program delivered jointly by a state university and a local children's hospital in the Midwest. We administered Rovai's Classroom Community Survey with 11 additional demographic questions. We also utilized online interviews to further explore students’ understanding of sense of community. A bi-factor model was fitted to the online sense of community survey data. Using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) we identified potential group differences. The qualitative data were analyzed thematically in a recursive and iterative process. Study results suggested that a dominant factor existed: sense of community with two sub-domain factors including sense of learning and sense of connectedness. No significant differences in sense of community with regard to gender, native language, or area of medical practice were detected. However, results showed a difference in sense of community between the three courses examined. This study is the first to examine the sense of community among online medical professionals. Since our findings are in contrast to those of previous studies, this opens the door to additional studies around the possible differences between the community characteristics and needs of medical professionals as online students.


Learning community, sense of community, building learning community, online education, medical professionals

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