Online MPH students come to campus

by Megan Clyne | 11/10/16 12:45am


The inaugural class of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice’s two-year online master of public health program will make its second visit to campus over winterim.

The new program offers the first online Dartmouth degree. The 28 members of the class include clinicians, nurses, doctors, physical therapists, policy analysts and nonprofit workers.

TDI’s Director of Education Tim Lahey said he is optimistic about the progress that the online MPH has made since its debut. TDI slated 20 spots in its first class of online MPH students, but the program decided to take 28 due to the volume of qualified applicants. The residential MPH program has about 60 members per class.

TDI Academic Director for Education Alice Andrews and Senior Director of Admissions and Recruiting Marc Aquila both said an online program was started to appeal to individuals who wanted to pursue their degree and career simultaneously.

Most of those in the online program are mid-career professionals who have been in the work force five to seven years prior to beginning the program.

Aquila and Andrews also acknowledged the increase in the number of people hoping to pursue a MPH degree, adding that they see the online program as another way in which the College can help supply the growing demand.

The online program uses the same teaching methods as the residential program. The residential program is more heavily applied to individuals in the Upper Valley, while the online initiative allows the College work with more diverse regions of the United States, Lahey said.

Though the majority of the program is completed online, Lahey emphasized the importance of fostering a close-knit, interpersonal academic setting comparable to being at Dartmouth. On-campus visits and class layout are two initiatives the program is trying to use to facilitate this setting.

Students are required to come to Hanover a total of six times and stay for one week to graduate. Before starting the online program, students come to the College and participate in a group immersion activity to foster community, Lahey said. Andrews added that after students’ initial visit, they must visit campus five more times where they have the opportunity to network with other students and professors, review their previous coursework and prepare for future endeavors.

In addition, Lahey said that the class layout also aims to promote community. The program is held in a blog format and students are assigned to groups of about four people with whom they are required to be in regular contact.

Each of the small groups is deliberately designed to include students involved in careers that pertain to different aspects of medicine, according to Andrews.

Efforts to integrate residential MPH students and online members have been a priority. Though the schedules for the two programs often do not align, TDI sent two students, one residential and one online, to the American Public Health Conference this past fall in order to begin fostering informal relationships between students from both programs in a setting of shared interest.

Faculty members are still learning how to teach students via the web, but they have found the online experience to be new and exciting and the students to be engaging, Andrews and Aquila said.

This program is one of three masters’ programs offered by TDI that seek to teach the importance of healthcare and need for improvement. The other two programs include a one-year accelerated master of public health and an 18-month master of science in healthcare research.