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The effectiveness of an online, distance learning Masters in Surgical Sciences programme in Malawi: Online learning by Malawian surgical trainees

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Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Journal of Health Professions Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2018


Postgraduate surgical training is limited in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, and doctors who pursue further training overseas may fail to return. One solution is to deliver education online, allowing trainees to complement their in-the-workplace learning.
We evaluated the perceived effectiveness of an online MSc in Surgical Sciences programme for trainees continuing to train and work full-time in their Malawian clinical environment.
Twenty-four Malawian surgical trainees have enrolled on the programme since 2010. Students’ perspectives about the MSc were explored by questionnaires, and Malawian student performance was measured using a variety of metrics and compared to other students in their year. In addition, Training Program Supervisors in Malawi were surveyed on their opinions of the effectiveness of the programme.
Feedback revealed that students valued the structured presentation of the basic sciences integrated into interactive virtual patients, access to e-journals, and the opportunity for discussion with international surgical colleagues. Academic performance of Malawian trainees was comparable to that of the cohort average in the first two-years of the programme.
Attitudes of both students and supervisors on the educational benefits of the programme were positive.
The MSc in Surgical Sciences provides a culture of studying and sharing knowledge with peers and mentors across the world, and has increased the academic support network for Malawian trainees from a few dedicated surgeons within the country to an international network. This innovative approach can serve as a model in other developing countries with critical shortages in healthcare workers.

    Research areas

  • Transnational education, online distance learning, surgical education, low- and middle-income countries

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