This article documents successful implementation of a new hospital pharmacy management course at 2 universities. The combination of classroom teaching, teamwork for analysis of a business case, and a Web-based forum discussion allowed the professor to provide knowledge in a structured manner and to be a role model, allowed students to apply their newly acquired knowledge to a realistic business case in a virtual pharmacy department, and encouraged ongoing discussions based on the pharmacy issues of the business case as well as personal experience. To the authors’ knowledge, the use of a Web-based forum has not previously been described for teaching pharmacy management.
Several positive aspects of online teaching are often cited, such as flexibility, elimination of time and distance constraints, the possibility of asynchronous discussions, improvement in computer competency, participation of students who are usually less involved in classroom discussions, improvement in students’ ability to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate, increase in students’ willingness to form an opinion and defend that position, improved access to current information, more opportunities for creativity, and greater collaboration and mutual aid among students. In the development of this course, all of these benefits were realized. In addition, this course structure represented a great way to confront the student with realistic administrative problems faced by a real department of pharmacy, while offering them the oppportunity to debate and discuss the issue with colleagues, as they would do in a real-life situation.
Reported negative aspects of online teaching are the need for technical support (e.g., for Internet connection problems), the need for self-discipline, feelings of isolation, lack of face-to-face interaction with the teacher and with other students, the risk of pursuing technical advancement rather than acquisition of new knowledge, concerns about confidentiality, the need to train the user, heavy workload, and development and maintenance costs. In this case, the most negative aspect was the large number of messages posted. Some students felt that they should have been responsible for reading only messages dealing with their particular case study (rather than all messages for the course as a whole). However, the authors believe that students will learn more by taking part in all discussions. The possibility of setting a maximum number of forum contributions per student has been considered but has not yet been implemented. This experience has also shown that online teaching significantly increases the teacher’s workload. However, the role of the professor can be minimal, and interventions in the forum should target inefficient discussions rather than providing content. It was estimated that a minimum of 30 supplementary working hours was needed for each cohort of students for monitoring of exchanges, guiding student contributions, and performing student evaluation. Fortunately, no technical problems were experienced during the course.