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Friday, June 20 • 8:30am - 9:20am
CON9.11 – Using Online Learning Communities to Transform Learning in Fieldwork Education (Room A317)

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Fieldwork, also referred to as an internship or practicum, is one of the most fundamental aspects of professional education programs. The core objective of fieldwork is to provide students with the opportunity to test ideas and concepts and apply theory to real life. Lave and Wenger (1991) present provide a theoretical foundation for fieldwork education, where learning is viewed as an experience shared by novices and experts in a practice context.  In this model, communities of practice provide students with opportunities to interact and share experiences as both a way to construct and apply knowledge (Kim & Hannafin, 2008; Wenger, 1998).This social interactive process, with the explicit use of feedback and reflection, has been found to be crucial in promoting deep learning in fieldwork (Richard, 2008; Drummer et al., 2008; Walsh, 2007).

As fieldwork can occur across time and space, providing opportunities for students to engage in discussion and reflect on their growth of expertise is vital, but logistically challenging. Innovative approaches to fieldwork such as online communities can bring students and mentors together to explore ideas, reflect and collaborate in learning (Palloff & Pratt, 2007).

The Clinical Education Integration (CEI) Program was developed to facilitate the application of theoretical knowledge during real time fieldwork education in an occupational therapy program.  Online learning communities were created to provide a collaborative approach to learning and allow students to explore new ideas, reflect and develop these ideas in a safe place. Faculty mentors were assigned to each online community that was comprised of four to six students.  Weekly themes were developed where students drew on their fieldwork experiences to describe theory in practice, identify and share resources around the themes and engage in asynchronous discussion groups.  Weekly synchronous discussions were led by faculty mentors and served to consolidate the learning. 

Three cohorts of onsite fieldwork preceptors and students have completed an online survey to describe the impact of the CEI on their leaning. Students reported a number of benefits including: (a) learning from their peers (b) increased confidence to ask questions on placement (c) opportunity for reflection, (d) connection with university faculty.  Onsite preceptors reported that students were able to ask more specific questions and reported the CEI offered additional educational support.

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in a demonstration of the CEI program and the learning platform in which the CEI is hosted. They will also be invited to share their experiences with on-line communities of learning.

Friday June 20, 2014 8:30am - 9:20am EDT
A317 McArthur Hall

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