Hybrid and Traditional Instruction: A Controlled Comparison of Student Performance in a Clinical Skills Course


Advances in technology have created new opportunities for delivery of doctor of physical therapy (DPT) education beyond a traditional, on-campus model. An accredited DPT program adapted a traditional instructional model to include a hybrid online/on-campus delivery method of the same curriculum. Empirical analyses of hybrid delivery models are limited, particularly with respect to clinical courses that require acquisition and mastery of psychomotor skills. This report presents student performance in a clinical skills course delivered simultaneously through both models.


Number of Subjects: Two consecutive graduate student cohorts enrolled in the first year of an accredited DPT program (2018-2019) Materials and Methods: Students participated in a four credit DPT introductory clinical course consistent with their enrollment in either the hybrid or traditional version of the curriculum. Student demographic characteristics were collected through the admissions process. Performance on written and practical skills exams were collected as part of the planned curriculum. Data was de-identified for statistical analysis. Performance by two consecutive cohorts will be compared for total exam score, cumulative written, and cumulative practical exams using parametric statistics with Bonferroni adjustment to account for multiple comparisons.


Results for the two cohorts (n=287) are reported here. Ninety two students enrolled in the hybrid model (58% female; 36% underrepresented minority; mean age 26.9±5.1 years; 37% live driving distance to campus); 195 in the traditional model (63% female; 22% underrepresented minority; mean age 24.6±3.1 years; 100% live driving distance to campus). There was no significant difference in average written exam performance [hybrid mean (SD)=82.9%(±8.1); traditional mean (SD)=84.7%(±7.3), p=0.06]. However, there was a statistically significant difference in average practical exam scores [hybrid: 85.2%(±5.9); traditional, 88.4%(±4.6); p<0.0001] and total exam score [hybrid 84.0% (±6), traditional, 86.8%(±5.2); p<0.0001]. Instructional delivery model explained 5% (r2=0.05, p<0.0001) of the variance in total exam scores.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

Conclusions: Overall student performance was equivalent between hybrid and traditional delivery of an introductory clinical skills course for written examinations. A small, statistically significant difference in practical exam performance and total exam score, while not substantially explained by delivery model, supports ongoing innovation for optimizing physical skills acquisition in the hybrid model. Relevance to the conference theme: Enhancing student resilience and success in physical therapy education: Physical therapist educators have a responsibility to critically and empirically assess the effectiveness of education delivery models, both new and traditional. This study provides a rare opportunity to advance educational science through a controlled comparison of simultaneous delivery of a clinical skills course using hybrid and traditional models. The overall equivalency of the early results of written examinations suggests that the hybrid delivery model has promise as a valuable contribution to the landscape of educational options for students with further exploration of differences in practical examination performance warranted.

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 26645
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Michael Andersen
  • Keywords:

BACK to Abstract Results