What Makes a 2-Year DPT Model Work? Innovations, Lessons Learned and Outcomes from a Charter Cohort


We face many challenges in higher education and in particular within health professions and physical therapy education. Our traditional or 2-dimensional views often hinder our ability to identify these challenges, fully understand their complexities and impact on our profession, and seek alternative solutions to them. These challenges must be addressed by questioning tacit assumptions, opening up to new ways of thinking, adapting, innovating, pushing at the edges, testing new possibilities, and taking non-traditional pathways. The outcomes of our efforts will be related to our level of awareness of the system and our ability to view issues from multiple vantage points and new perspectives. This presentation will review the issues facing higher education, explore the traditional and non-traditional initiatives and lessons learned in implementing a 2-year hybrid DPT program model, and assess program outcomes using this methodology.

Methods and/or Description of Project

The South College DPT program was developed as a 2-year, blended learning model, with a specific intent to address many of the challenges facing DPT education. A charter class of 65 students matriculated into the program in June 2015 and will graduate in June 2017. Subsequent cohorts were enrolled up to a planned class size of 100 students. Since its inception, program faculty have developed and implemented several innovative strategies in admissions, student advisement and retention, blended learning teaching andragogies, curriculum management and clinical education. Admissions processes have leveraged surveys, essays, and web-based interviews to identify students that will “fit” or thrive within this educational model. Student advisement strategies have been employed to build strong faculty advisement groups, foster meaningful connections between students and with faculty, facilitate awareness of student performance among faculty, and promote early intervention – all designed to elevate student performance and academic progression and retention. Several educational innovations have been integrated into a curriculum plan of 50% distance education, 20% on-campus laboratory sessions, and 30% clinical education. These initiatives include the adaptation of traditional, and the creation of non-traditional, andragogies unique to blended learning, to include flipped classroom principles, immersion education, faculty and curriculum management, and instructional technology integration. Finally, a structured clinical education plan and curriculum has been implemented to achieve established requirements and tailor experiences to meet the professional development needs and goals for each student, to include post professional residency as a student expectation upon graduation.


Educational outcomes will focus on key metrics achieved by our charter class. In addition to a 95% retention rate, these outcomes will include our graduation rate, licensure pass rate, transition rate into post professional residencies. Program assessment data will be presented to illustrate lessons learned and process improvements implemented during the first two years of the program – from inception to accreditation. Finally, program outcomes will be compared to aggregate program data from CAPTE to show similarities and differences across these metrics.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education

The 2-year blended learning DPT model implemented at South College is efficient and effective in educating first professional physical therapy students. This hybrid model addresses many of the challenges facing DPT education, to include curriculum variability, access to DPT education, faculty shortages, and the rising cost of higher education. Many of the innovative strategies presented are equally useful in traditional and non-traditional DPT programs.


Grignon et al. Expected Graduate outcomes in physical therapist education programs: a qualitative study. JOPTE. 2014:28(1):48-57.
Threlkeld et al. The clinical doctorate: a framework for analysis in physical therapist education. Phys Ther. 1999:79(6):567-81.
Jette et al. How do we improve quality in clinical education? Examination of structures, processes, and outcomes. JOPTE. 2014:28(1b):6-12.
Jette DU. Unflattening: 2016 Cerasoli Lecture. JOPTE. 2016:30(3):4-10.

Course Objectives

1. Review the challenges facing higher education and the need to “unflatten” our traditional views of physical therapy education.
2. Identify and discuss innovative admission and advisement strategies to improve student academic performance and retention.
3. Identify and discuss curriculum delivery strategies, such as flipped classroom, immersion learning, and content integration to facilitate an accelerated DPT education and prepare students for the demands of clinical practice.
4. Identify and discuss clinical education strategies that foster professional development as entry-level clinicians and encourage continuation into post professional residency.

Instructional Methods

Traditional lecture, standard feedback mechanisms

Tentative Outline/Schedule

Challenges in DPT education (5 minutes)
Admissions & Advisement: Strategies and lessons learned to improve student achievement and retention. (15 minutes)
Curriculum: Strategies and lessons learned in curricular management, faculty management, and flipped classroom and immersion education principles. (30 minutes)
Clinical Education: Strategies and lessons learned with a structured clinical education curriculum, sequenced clinical experiences, and integrated residency opportunities. (30 minutes)
Question/Answer Session (30 minutes)

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  • Control #: 2748601
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Dr. Michael Walker, Tim Noteboom
  • Keywords:

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