Open Access Research article

Participating in a Community of Learners enhances resident perceptions of learning in an e-mentoring program: proof of concept

Timona Obura1*, William E Brant2, Fiona Miller3 and I John Parboosingh4

Author Affiliations

1 Postgraduate Medical Education Director, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya

2 Professor of Radiology, Department of Radiology, University of Virginia Health System, Virginia USA

3 Director of Research, Radiological Society of North America, 820 Jorie Blvd, Oak Brook, IL, 60523, USA

4 Professor emeritus, University of Calgary, Consultant Community Learning, Calgary, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-3

Published: 25 January 2011



Community learning and e-mentoring, learning methods used in higher education, are not used to any extent in residency education. Yet both have the potential to enhance resident learning and, in the case of community learning, introduce residents to basic lifelong learning skills. We set out to determine whether residents participating in an Internet based e-mentoring program would, with appropriate facilitation, form a community of learners (CoL) and hold regular community meetings. We also determined resident and faculty perceptions of CoL and Internet sessions as effective learning experiences.


A six-month e-mentoring pilot was offered to 10 Radiology residents in the Aga Khan University Postgraduate Medical Education Program in Nairobi, Kenya (AKUHN) with a Professor of Radiology, located at University of Virginia, USA, acting as the e-mentor. Monthly Internet case-based teaching sessions were facilitated by the e-mentor. In addition, residents were coached by a community facilitator to form CoL and collectively work through clinical cases at weekly face-to-face CoL sessions.

Event logs described observed resident activity at CoL sessions; exit survey and interviews were used to elicit perceptions of CoL and Internet sessions as effective learning experiences.


Resident adoption of CoL behaviors was observed, including self-regulation, peer mentoring and collaborative problem solving. Analysis revealed high resident enthusiasm and value for CoL. Surveys and interviews indicated high levels of acceptance of Internet learning experiences, although there was room for improvement in audio-visual transmission technologies. Faculty indicated there was a need for a larger multi-specialty study.


The pilot demonstrated resident acceptance of community building and collaborative learning as valued learning experiences, addressing one barrier to its formal adoption in residency education curricula. It also highlighted the potential of e-mentoring as a means of expanding faculty and teaching materials in residency programs in developing countries.