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Implementation Research Training for Learners in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Evaluating Behavior Change after Participating in A Massive Online Open Course
Abstract Background: Implementation research (IR) can play a critical role in the delivery of disease control interventions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The growing demand for IR training has led to the development of a range of training programs and university courses, the majority of which can not be accessed by learners in LMICs. This article reports on the evaluation of a massive open online course (MOOC) developed by the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases hosted by the World Health Organization on the topic of IR with a focus on infectious diseases of poverty. This study followed Kirkpatrick’s Model to evaluate training programs with a specific focus on post-training changes in behavior.Methods: MOOC participants were invited to take part in an anonymous online survey examining their IR knowledge and how they applied it in their professional practice approximately 1-1.5 years after completing the MOOC. The survey contained 43 open-ended, multiple choice and Likert-type questions. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the quantitative data and responses to the open-ended questions were thematically coded.Results: A total of 748 MOOC participants responded to the survey. The demographic profile of the survey respondents aligned with that of the MOOC participants, with nearly 70% of respondents originating from Africa. Responses to the quantitative and open-ended survey questions revealed that respondents’ IR knowledge had improved to a large extent as a result of the MOOC, and that they used the knowledge and skills gained in their professional lives frequently. Respondents most often cited changes in their conceptual understanding of IR and understanding of the research process as substantial areas of change influenced by participating in the MOOC.Conclusions: These findings indicate that the MOOC was successful in targeting learners from LMICs, in strengthening their IR knowledge and in contributing to their ability to apply it in their professional practice. The utility of MOOCs for providing IR training to learners in LMICs, where implementation challenges are encountered often, makes this platform an ideal standalone learning tool or one that could be combined with other training formats.
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