Assessing the impact of e-learning on decision-making to reduce health risks: Perceptions from UCT's pesticide risk management cohort

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

There is a need to build the capacity of professionals in low- to middle- income countries (LMICs) in order to reduce pesticide risks on human and environmental health. To address these risks, the University of Cape Town (UCT) introduced the Post Graduate Diploma in Pesticide Risk Management (DPRM). This programme utilises a mixed teaching mode including an e-learning component which includes virtual seminars/discussion forums. The DPRMs' discussion forum aimed to strengthen skills in managing and reducing pesticide risks. Due to the shortage of skilled professionals in LMICs, e-learning can facilitate the on-going training and skills development in pesticide management to address pesticide related challenges. The study focus was on evaluating the impact of the DPRMs' e-learning Discussion Forum bi-monthly sessions on the decision-making processes of professionals in LMICs working in pesticide risk management. The sample for this study was obtained from a population of working professionals, who either completed or were currently enrolled for the DPRM programme (N=37). Twenty-two participants completed the online questionnaire anonymously. These participants were employed by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutes and private companies in Africa and Fiji. This mini-dissertation is divided into four parts. The protocol (Part A) provides the study justification and describes the methodology for collecting the data and the analysis thereof. The literature review (Part B) describes e-learning and how it relates to capacity building of pesticide risk management (PRM) professionals in LMICs countries. It looks at the challenges of implementing and maintaining successful capacity building and the role e-learning plays. The manuscript of a journal ready article (Part C) presents the research findings on the perceived effectiveness of the e-learning based DPRM discussion forum and whether it aided PRM professionals in making better decisions. There are four appendices (Part D) which include the questionnaire, consent form, ethical approval and instructions for writing the manuscript. The study found that participants reported improved application of information gained through e-learning in a practical and effective manner, thereby improving their skills for real world scenarios. Overall benefits acknowledged by participants included establishing a knowledge resource, improved communication with colleagues and stakeholders, as well as improved ability for knowledge application in their work and pesticide use in context. An important finding was that just over half of respondents (55%) felt that they were able to contribute to policy change in their countries as a result of the discussion forum. Unfortunately, no statistical significance could be established between variables due to the limited sample size. It is recommended that a follow-up study with a larger sample be conducted, to establish whether the discussion forum has a long-term and sustainable impact in decision- making processes and policy implementation.

Includes bibliographical references