A massive open online course (MOOC) can be used to teach physiotherapy students about spinal cord injuries: a randomised trial

Mohammad S. Hossain, Md. Shofiqul Islam, Joanne V. Glinsky, Rachael Lowe, Tony Lowe, Lisa A. Harvey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Question: Does a massive open online course (MOOC) based around an online learning module about spinal cord injuries improve knowledge or confidence among physiotherapy students more than if physiotherapy students are left to work through the online learning module at their own pace. Which method of presenting the content leads to greater satisfaction among the students? Study design: Randomised controlled trial with concealed allocation and intention-to-treat analysis. Participants: Forty-eight physiotherapy students in Bangladesh. Intervention: Participants randomised to the control group were instructed to work at their own pace over a 5-week period through a physiotherapy-specific online learning module available at www.elearnSCI.org. Experimental participants were enrolled in a 5-week MOOC. The MOOC involved completing the same online learning module but experimental participants' progress through the module was guided each week and they were provided with the opportunity to engage in online discussion through Facebook. Outcome measures: The primary outcome was knowledge, and the secondary outcomes were perceived confidence to treat people with spinal cord injuries and satisfaction with the learning experience. Results: The mean between-group difference for knowledge was 0.7 points (95% CI -1.3 to 2.6) on a 0 to 20-point scale. The equivalent results for perceived confidence and satisfaction with the learning experience were 0.4 points (95% CI -1.0 to 1.8) and 0.0 points (95% CI -1.1 to 1.2) on a 0 to 10-point scale. Conclusion: The MOOC was no better for students than working at their own pace through an online learning module for increasing knowledge, confidence or satisfaction. However, students in the MOOC group highlighted positive aspects of the course that were unique to their group, such as interacting with students from other countries through the MOOC Facebook group. Trial registration: ACTRN12614000422628.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physiotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Clinical trials
  • Methodology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injury


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