Building a theoretical model for virtual interprofessional education Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background

    Virtual interprofessional education (IPE) has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional in-person IPE. However, theoretical frameworks to support virtual interprofessional learning are not well established. Two theoretical frameworks emerged as relevant to virtual IPE: (1) the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (CIHC) interprofessional learning framework and (2) Dornan's Experience-Based Learning Model (ExBL) of workplace learning. In this study, we sought to explore virtual IPE using both frameworks to develop new theoretical understandings and identify assumptions, gaps and barriers.


    This was a qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with medical and nursing student participants (n = 14) and facilitators (n = 3) from virtual IPE workshops. Transcripts were analysed using directed content analysis methodology, informed by the CIHC and ExBL frameworks. Themes were explored using mind-mapping transitional coding. Data collection and analysis were continued iteratively until themes with adequate conceptual depth, relevance and plausibility were identified.


    Three themes were identified: (1) a shift in the balance of personal and professional, (2) blunted sociologic fidelity and (3) uncertainty and threats to interpersonal connections. Professional distinctions and hierarchies are blurred virtually. This contributed to an increased sense of psychological safety among most learners and lowered the threshold for participation. Separation from workplace sociologic complexity facilitated communication and role clarification objectives. However, loss of immersion may limit deeper engagement. Interprofessional objectives that rely on deeper sociological fidelity, such as conflict resolution, may be threatened. Informal interactions between learners are hindered, which may threaten organic development of interprofessional relationships.


    Role clarification and communication objectives are preserved in virtual IPE. Educators should pay close attention to psychological safety and sociologic fidelity-both to leverage advantages and guard against threats to connection and transferability. Virtual IPE may be well suited as a primer to in-person activities or as scaffolding towards interprofessional workplace practice.

publication date

  • July 5, 2022