The use of online technologies in health professionals’ education, including physiotherapy, has been advocated as effective and well-accepted tools for enhancing student learning. The aim of this study was to critically review the effectiveness, and user perceptions of online technology for physiotherapy teaching and learning. The following databases were systematically searched on the 31(st) of August 2013 for articles describing implementation of online technologies into physiotherapy teaching and learning: ERIC, CINAHL, Web of Science, Academic search complete, ProQuest Nursing and Allied Health Source, Medline, Embase, and Scopus. No language, design or publishing date restrictions were imposed. Risk of bias was assessed using the 2011 Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool checklist (MMAT). A total of 4133 articles were retrieved; 22 articles met the inclusion criteria and were accepted for final analysis: 15 on the effectiveness of technology, and 14 on users’ perceptions. Included studies used three designs: case study (14 articles), controlled trial (3), and randomized controlled trial (5). Studies investigated both pre-registration physiotherapy students (1523) and physiotherapy professionals (171). The quality of studies ranged from 67 to 100 % on the MMAT checklist which can be considered moderate to excellent. More than half of the studies (68 %) received scores greater than 80 %. Studies typically investigated websites and discussion boards. The websites are effective in enhancing practical skills performance, and discussion boards in knowledge acquisition, as well as in development of critical and reflective thinking. Students’ perceptions of the use of websites were mostly positive, providing students with entertaining, easy accessible resources. Perceived barriers to the use of websites included difficulties with internet connection, insufficiently interactive material, or personal preference for paper-based materials. Discussion boards were perceived as deepening students’ thinking and facilitating reflection, allowing for learning from multiple perspectives, and providing easy communication and support.
The results of this review suggest that online technologies (i.e., websites and discussion boards) have many benefits to offer for physiotherapy teaching and learning; There was minimal evidence of barriers for the use of online technologies, however, addressing the identified ones could enhance adherence to use of online technologies in health professionals’ education.