eLearning for health professionals

November 2015

The authors

  • Dr Karen M Scott, Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Sydney
  • Dr Jenny Barrett, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne


This review examines a range of electronic learning (eLearning) resources that have been developed for health professionals internationally to understand what is known about effective eLearning approaches for different health professionals in different settings.

Key findings include

  • Knowledge is easy to change and measure, especially if the baseline is low; knowledge retention is easier with low baseline participants.
  • If procedural or practical skills are required, the program needs to include practice through exercises and testing, not just discussion or interactivity.
  • It is hard to effect change in behaviour and practice except in low baseline situations. Attitudes, beliefs and values are difficult to change, but change can be achieved.
  • Some interpersonal skills cannot be effectively addressed online without including interpersonal interactions.
  • Regular revision of learning is needed for retention.
  • An eLearning resource developed for one group of health professionals may not be relevant for another group.
  • Participation and completion can be increased through incentives, ensuring relevance and online mentors. Drop-out rates are often high, especially in long and anonymous programs.
  • Participants’ technology and technical skills need to be considered. An online or face-to-face orientation is required for eLearning resources.
  • The effectiveness of different eLearning types varies.
  • Participant satisfaction is easy to measure.