Online journal clubs have recently become popular, but their effectiveness in promoting meaningful discussion of the evidence is unknown. We aimed to understand the learner experience of a hybrid online-traditional family medicine journal club.
We used a qualitative descriptive study to understand the experience of medical students and residents at the University of Toronto with the hybrid online-traditional family medicine journal club, including perceived useful and challenging aspects related to participant engagement and fostering discussion. The program, informed by the literature and needs assessment, comprised five sessions over a 6-month period. Learners led the discussion between the distributed sites via videoconferencing and Twitter. Six of 12 medical students and 33 of 57 residents participated in one of four focus groups. Thematic data analysis was performed using the constant comparison method.
While participants could appreciate the potential of an online component to journal club to connect distributed learners, overall, they preferred the small group, face-to-face format that they felt produced richer and more meaningful discussion, higher levels of engagement, and a better learning opportunity. Videoconferencing and Twitter were seen as diminishing rather than enhancing their learning experience and they challenged the assumption that millennials would favor the use of social media for learning.
Our study demonstrates that for discussion-based teaching activities such as journal club, learners prefer a small-group, face-to-face format. Our findings have implications for the design of curricular programs for distributed medical learners.