Online Dental Hygiene Degree Completion Program: Outcomes of a longitudinal study

J Dent Hyg. 2020 Oct;94(5):44-52.


Purpose: Examining the long-term outcomes of education programs delivered online can help assess the impact of the program on graduates and the value of the delivery format. The purpose of this study was to measure the overall outcomes of an online dental hygiene degree completion program and identify key alumni outcomes.Methods: A 35 item electronic survey was delivered via email to all graduates (2009-2017) of an online degree completion program based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, two years following program completion. Survey items included Likert scale, closed and open-ended questions focusing on career characteristics, leadership, scholarly activities, evidence- and community-based practices, professional confidence, and transformative learning. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data.Results: Of the nine alumni cohorts (n=75), 50 graduates participated in the survey for a response rate of 67%. Eighty-two percent of respondents felt they had more career options after graduation and reported post-degree career activities that included dental hygiene instruction (36%), public health (32%), and administration (14%). There was a statistically significant increase in the instructor/educator role of the participants post-graduation (p = 0.000). The majority (94%) indicated the program improved their competency in areas of leadership and evidence-based practice and all (100%) indicated a greater responsibility to use their professional skills to address oral health disparities in their communitiesConclusion: Graduates of the online degree completion program reported ongoing activities in key areas of leadership, evidence- and community-based practice. Future research should focus on ensuring that program goals reflect the evolving dental hygiene profession and program delivery practices meet the needs of the working professional student.

Keywords: degree completion; dental hygiene education; distance education; e-learning technology; online learning.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Hygienists*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Michigan
  • Oral Hygiene*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires