Factors influencing the retention of participants in online cancer screening training programs in India

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Jul 13;20(1):220. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02144-y.


Background: Online courses have broken the boundaries in imparting knowledge. While in western countries e-learning in medical education is well accepted, it is still an upcoming field in low- and middle-income countries like India. Attrition is a major threat to online courses world-wide. The objective of this article is to share the experiences in conducting online cancer screening courses, reasons for attrition and ways to improve retention.

Methods: Online training program in preventive oncology for medical professionals is being conducted since 2017, which is 14-week long with weekly one-hour sessions and specific curriculum for healthcare professionals. Since the retention of participants was a major challenge in all the courses, a short online survey was conducted to identify the reason behind quitting the course and suggestions to improve retention. The data was analyzed in November 2019.

Results: Among 614 enrolments, 26% (159/614) refused to attend the course and only 55% (252/455) completed the course successfully. Among the attendees 52% (238/455) were females, 71% (325/455) were from the public sector and 71% (324/455) were non-specialists. The attrition was high among non-specialists 49% (160/324), male participants 57% (124/217) and public sector doctors 52% (170/325). The main reasons for quitting the course were high workload in the health facilities 75% (52/69) and poor internet connectivity 12% (8/69).

Conclusion: The internet connectivity should be strengthened in all the healthcare centers to facilitate e-learning. A dedicated time-slot should be allotted to the providers for e-learning and updating their knowledge in addition to their routine work.

Keywords: Attrition of participants in online course; Cancer screening course; ECHO-online cancer screening course; Retention in online course.