Introduction: To respond to the increasing need to build capacity for planning, implementing, and supporting tobacco control strategies, an evidence-based, online continuing education (CE) course aimed at Canadian public health professionals was developed. The purpose of this study was to comprehensively evaluate the course, Tobacco and Public Health: From Theory to Practice (http://tobaccocourse.otru.org).
Methods: Rossett and McDonald's revision of Kirkpatrick's four-level evaluation model for training programs guided the evaluation design. A pre-, post-, and follow-up single group design assessed immediate reactions to course modules, knowledge change and retention, practice change, and overall perceived value of the course. Six external peer reviewers evaluated course module content.
Results: Fifty-nine participants completed all three course modules and the final online questionnaire at time 3, representing a response rate of 78%. Significant knowledge gains occurred between times 1 and 2 (p < 0.001). Although time 3 scores remained higher than time 1 scores for each module (p < 0.001), they decreased significantly between times 2 and 3 (p < 0.001). The majority of participants (93%) felt the topics covered were useful to their daily work. All but one participant felt the course was a good investment of their time, and nearly all participants (97%) stated they would recommend the course to others. Peer reviewers found that module content flowed well and was comprehensive.
Discussion: This comprehensive evaluation was valuable both for assessing whether course goals were achieved and for identifying areas for course improvement. We expect this design would be a useful model to evaluate other online continuing education courses.