Background: There has been a rapid growth of online teaching in the past few years, yet the implementation of role-play for formal educational activities in an online setting is growing more slowly. The use of online role-playing for the development of health professions educators is virtually un-documented in the literature.
Innovation: In the project reported here we use role-playing as a method to motivate and increase active participation in an online web-based discussion on community-based medical education (CBME). The Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education & Research (FAIMER(®) ) Institute hosts virtual group discussions for fellows as part of its fellowship programmes, in order to deepen their knowledge base in health professions education and research. In June 2008, a group of seven FAIMER(®) fellows and faculty members moderated an online discussion on CBME using an online role-play exercise with other fellows and faculty members.
Results: Out of a total of 102 fellows, 36 (35.3%) participated actively, which exceeded the typical percentage of list server participation. In addition, a rich discussion resulted in a comprehensive report on the goals, challenges, logistical components, role of Health Ministry policy and the possible ethical mandate of CBME in developing countries.
Conclusion: Online role-play encouraged distributed participation among a highly diverse international group of participants, supporting the conclusion that role-playing can be used effectively with mid-career health professional faculty members in the online environment.
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2011.