Nigerian Postgraduate Medical Journal

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year
: 2022  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 288--295

Acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinar in strengthening research capacity in COVID-19 era in Nigeria


Abiola Olubusola Komolafe1, Omotade Adebimpe Ijarotimi2, Olufemi Mayowa Adetutu3, Oluseye Ademola Okunola4, Temitope Olumuyiwa Ojo5, Funmilola Folasade Oyinlola3, Oluwatosin Eunice Olorunmoteni6, Monday Daniel Olodu7, Ojo Melvin Agunbiade4, Olayinka Donald Otuyemi8,  
1 Department of Nursing Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
2 Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Perinatology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
3 Department of Demography and Social Statistics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
4 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
5 Department of Community Health, Ile-Ife, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
6 Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
7 Department of Community Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
8 Department of Child Dental Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Olayinka Donald Otuyemi
Department of Child Dental Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
Nigeria

Abstract

Introduction: The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have necessitated the increasing use of online virtual training platforms. The objectives of the study were to assess the acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of virtual space in strengthening the research capacity in Nigeria. Materials and Methods: Data were collected through an adapted online questionnaire from participants following a 2-day webinar. Both descriptive and inferential (bivariate and multivariate) analyses were done. Results: The findings of the study revealed that 55.2% of participants (n = 424) were males and 66.0% (n = 424) were early career researchers. Two hundred and thirty-six participants (55.7%) (n = 424) reported very good acceptability, 67.9% (n = 424) reported very good appropriateness while 54.7% (n = 424) reported good feasibility of webinar for research capacity strengthening. The rating of knowledge obtained from the webinar as 'excellent' increased the odds of acceptability (odd ratio [OR] = 38.30; P < 0.001), appropriateness (OR = 15.65; P < 0.05), and feasibility (OR = 20.85; P < 0.05). Furthermore, the preference for zoom and other online platforms for learning increased odds of acceptability of the webinar (OR = 2.29; confidence interval [CI]: 0.97–57.39; P < 0.05), appropriateness (OR = 2.55; CI: 1.10–5.91; P < 0.05) and feasibility (OR = 2.34; CI: 0.96–5.74; P < 0.05). Conclusion: The study concluded that webinar was acceptable, appropriate and feasible for strengthening research capacity, although poor internet connectivity and cost of data were the major challenges in Nigeria. However, a learner-centred approach in contents' delivery that ensures optimal learning has the potential of enhancing research capacity strengthening via virtual space.



How to cite this article:
Komolafe AO, Ijarotimi OA, Adetutu OM, Okunola OA, Ojo TO, Oyinlola FF, Olorunmoteni OE, Olodu MD, Agunbiade OM, Otuyemi OD. Acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinar in strengthening research capacity in COVID-19 era in Nigeria.Niger Postgrad Med J 2022;29:288-295


How to cite this URL:
Komolafe AO, Ijarotimi OA, Adetutu OM, Okunola OA, Ojo TO, Oyinlola FF, Olorunmoteni OE, Olodu MD, Agunbiade OM, Otuyemi OD. Acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinar in strengthening research capacity in COVID-19 era in Nigeria. Niger Postgrad Med J [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 6 ];29:288-295
Available from: https://www.npmj.org/text.asp?2022/29/4/288/359758


Full Text



 Introduction



The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) was established, in 2008, to support the development of a vibrant African academy able to lead world-class multidisciplinary research that impacts positively on public and population health. The consortium enhances the capacity of African universities to create sustainable multidisciplinary research hubs by supporting junior faculty members to undertake their doctoral training locally and to become internationally recognized research leaders. Ultimately, CARTA strengthens university-wide systems to support research. CARTA offers a well-thought-out approach to rebuild and to strengthen the capacity of African universities to produce world-class researchers, research leaders and scholars. Apart from individual research training, CARTA Fellows and Graduates are encouraged to participate in collaborative research work[1] and promote productive mentoring relationships among different cohort groups.[2]

Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) is a public university owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria. OAU is one of the 12 CARTA-Partner institutions in Africa and the second in Nigeria. The other Partner institutions are-University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Moi University, Kenya, University of Nairobi, Kenya, University of Rwanda, Rwanda, Makerere University, Uganda, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and University of Malawi, Malawi. In addition to the eight universities, there are 4 research institutions-KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme, Agincourt-MRC, South Africa, Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania and the African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya. The partnership which is in its 12th year has enrolled 225 fellows and produced 134 world-class Ph. D Graduates. Over the course of 4 years, each cohort of students attends four advanced seminars; Joint Advanced Seminars (JAS)–each running for 4 weeks. The JASes expose students to key theories and concepts, seminal readings, and research methods of disciplines relevant to public and population health; they train students in critical research skills; build and maintain a network of researchers for scientific collaborations, professional support and mutually beneficial exchange of scientific resources. The formal training during JAS is complemented by inter-JAS activities that encourage fellows to stay connected and engage with peers and mentors.[3] The Inter-JAS activities include a step-down of the training Fellows received during the JAS to build and strengthen research capacity in their home institution.

Conventionally, the step-down seminars/training were done via face-to-face mode. However, the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing have made step-down of JASes via face-to-face mode practically impossible. In keeping with the current situation and the need to broaden the reach of the CARTA initiative to a global audience of researchers, the secretariat recently organized a 2-day international webinar on research capacity strengthening to step-down the training received during JAS 1 and 4. There is increasing use of virtual and web-based platforms for social and learning interactions in the COVID-19 era. Although virtual and web-based platforms for learning have both merits and demerits,[4],[5],[6] ability to ensure physical distancing and the potential of a simultaneous global reach make it a better alternative to face-to-face learning. The use of webinars for the dissemination of information and lectures has been documented in the literature,[7] although its acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility for strengthening research capacity have received little attention.

Being the first of its kind in the partnership, the study assessed the acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of virtual space for strengthening research capacity among researchers in Universities and research institutions during the COVID-19 era.

 Materials and Methods



Ethics

Ethical approval was collected to conduct this study from the Health Research and Ethics Committee of the Institute of Public Health, OAU, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria, with protocol number IPHOAU/12/1564, and approved on 16th September 2020. Before data collection, informed consent was obtained from all potential participants in the study. An E-mail was sent to the participants to inform them that data from the evaluation form (the questionnaire) will be used for research purposes to gain their consent. They were given the option to decline by E-mail, otherwise, their consent was assumed. Only the research team had access to the data of the study and participants were assured of the confidentiality of information.

Research design

This study employed a descriptive cross-sectional research design to conduct an online survey among researchers on the acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of a virtual step-down program for research capacity strengthening. A 2-day virtual web-based research capacity strengthening with 10 sessions of training, each lasting an average of 1 h was conducted between 16th and 17th June 2020 via the Zoom web conferencing app (Zoom Video Communications inc.). Topics included: Identifying Research Gap/Literature Search/Selecting an Appropriate Article/Writing a good Literature Review, Research Design and Methodological Choices, Setting Research Agenda, Teaching and Curriculum Development, Grant Writing, Budgeting and Research Integrity, Technology and Research Communication, and Support Network in Academia. Participants were asked to pre-register for the conference by filling a Google form with their basic biodata information (title, name, gender, institution, designation and E-mail address).

Sample size determination

The Cochran formula for single proportion (n0 = Z2pq/e2) was used.[8] The standard variation (z) was 1.96 at a 95% confidence level, (q) was 1-p, and the precision or absolute error (e) was 0.05. Since the exact number of people who will attend the webinar or respond to the online survey is not known, an assumption of 50% (0.50) was made as the expected proportion of the population. Thus, a sample size of at least 385 people was necessary for this study.

Data collection

The study instrument was an anonymous structured online questionnaire. The questionnaire was adapted from the questionnaire for measuring acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of innovation.[9] It consisted of two parts: the first part assessed the background characteristics of the participants in relation to their exposure to the webinar, while the second part of the questionnaire consisted of the outcome variables, namely acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinars. The link to the site was programmed to pop up at the end of the webinar or as soon as a participant leaves the virtual meeting room. The link was also sent to each participant's registered E-mail address in case the pop-up was missed. There was a higher retention rate on the 2nd day of the webinar as compared to the 1st day.

Data analysis

Statistical analysis was performed using STATA 14.1 version (Copyright 1985-2019 StataCorp LLC, Texas, USA). Frequencies and percentages were used to describe the background characteristics. The outcome variables: Acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility were measured on a 5-point Likert scale which ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Acceptability and feasibility have five questions each and the total score for each of them ranging from 5 to 25 while appropriateness has four question items with a total score between 5 and 20. The outcome variables measured on a Likert scale were transformed into ordered categorical variables. Composite scores were computed for acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of the webinar. Each of these outcome variables was categorised into ordinal form and divided into tertiles, namely poor, good and very good. Higher scores represent 'very good', and high scores represent 'good' while the lower scores represent 'poor'. Chi-square statistical test (χ2) was used to examine the relationship between categorical independent variables and ordered outcome variables at the bivariate level. The level of statistical significance was set at P < 0.05. Variables that were significant at the bivariate level were included in the multivariate analysis, otherwise excluded. The multivariate analysis involved the use of ordered logistic regression to examine the relationship between background characteristics and each acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility.

 Results



A total of 496 researchers participated in the webinar out of which 424 responded to the online survey, yielding an 86% response rate.

Percentage distribution of respondents' background characteristics

[Table 1] shows the background characteristics of the participants. More than one-half (55.2%) of the participants were males while 44.8% were females and 66.0% were under 5 years as researchers. The table also shows that 92.2% of the participants had been involved in webinars, mainly by Zoom (78.1%). About one-third of the participants (35.6%) attended 8–10 sessions of the webinar and almost one-half of the participants (49.3%) rated the knowledge gained from the webinar as 'very good' while 0.7% rated the knowledge gained as 'fair'. The motivation for attendance was knowledge and skill in 75.0% of the participants and 46.2% reported poor internet connectivity/technical issues as challenges with the webinar. Poor internet connectivity was reported as a general challenge with webinars in 64.4%.{Table 1}

Participants' acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinar for capacity strengthening

[Table 2] shows the distribution of participants' acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinars for capacity strengthening. In the domain of acceptability, 94.9% of respondents strongly agreed and agreed that the webinar met their needs. For appropriateness, 92.0% of respondents strongly agreed and agreed that webinars seem suitable. As per feasibility, 92.0% of respondents strongly agreed and agreed that the webinar was practicable for capacity strengthening.{Table 2}

[Figure 1] shows 55.7% of the participants reported very good acceptability, 67.9% reported very good appropriateness while 37.5% reported very good and another 54.7% reported good feasibility of webinars for research capacity strengthening.{Figure 1}

Relationship between participants' background characteristics acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinar

[Table 3] presents the relationship between acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinars and selected background characteristics. 'Prior involvement in webinar' was significantly associated with appropriateness (P = 0.04) and feasibility (P < 0.01). Furthermore, 'knowledge gained in the webinar' was significantly associated with acceptability, appropriateness, and feasibility (P < 0.01). [Table 3] also revealed a significant association between the preferred way of learning and acceptability (P = 0.02), appropriateness (P < 0.01) and feasibility (P = 0.01) of the webinar.{Table 3}

[Table 4] shows the odds of acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of webinar by significant background characteristics at the bivariate level of analysis. The table shows participants who rated knowledge obtained from the webinar as 'excellent' had increased odds of webinar acceptability (odd ratio [OR] = 38.3; confidence interval [CI]: 2.54–57.83; P < 0.001), appropriateness (OR = 15.65; CI: 1.12–218.47; P < 0.05) and feasibility (OR = 20.85; CI: 1.31–330.15; P < 0.05) compared to those who rated it 'fair'. With regard to preferred ways of learning and sharing information, participants who had preference for zoom and other online platforms had increased odds of acceptability of webinar (OR = 2.29; CI: 0.97–57.39; P < 0.05), appropriateness (OR = 2.55; CI: 1.10–5.91; P < 0.05) and feasibility (OR = 2.34; CI: 0.96–5.74; P < 0.05) compared to those who had no preference.{Table 4}

Retention of participants in the webinar

[Figure 2] shows the retention of participants in the 2 days' webinar. The attendance of the participants was taken every ½ h throughout the webinar on 2 days. The attendance peaked at 2 h into the webinar (11.00 am) on day 1 with 496 participants while it peaked at one and a half hours into the webinar (10.30 am) on day 2 with 403 participants. The graph shows the retention rate was 60.7% on day 1 while it was 84.4% on day two. The average retention rate for the webinar was 72.6%.{Figure 2}

 Discussion



Capacity strengthening through webinars is gradually gaining ground in its application to learning and education programs. This study determined the acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of virtual step-down training for research capacity building among researchers. The use of webinars to strengthen research capacity was acceptable and widely adjudged appropriate by the participants. The feasibility of the use of webinars for research capacity strengthening was also affirmed by the participants. In spite of the challenges identified by the participants, the use of webinars for research capacity strengthening seems to be a better option in the face of the current global COVID-19 pandemic.

The acceptability of virtual step-down training for research capacity building was high among participants. This was evident as most participants agreed that it met their needs, approval and were satisfied with its usage. Although the use of webinars is not popular yet in Nigeria, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the participants found it appealing and had no objection to using a webinar for capacity strengthening. This is in agreement with findings by Avila et al. that webinar training is an acceptable and effective approach given the fact that it saves cost and substantial time, especially when training is needed across multiple sites.[4] Despite the potential limitations to the use of webinars for learning, this study revealed the unanimous acceptability of the webinar in disseminating educational information that will improve research capacity. The high acceptability might be conditioned by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation worldwide, hence necessitating the need for a webinar as an alternative to a traditional face-to-face mode of educational content delivery.

The significant predictors of the acceptability of webinars as a means for capacity strengthening were knowledge gained from the webinar and participants' preference for zoom and other online platforms as a means of learning and sharing information. Although webinar is useful for professional training and teaching learning activities, their effectiveness is yet to be ascertained.[7] The revelations from our study participants indicated that the knowledge they obtained from the webinar was remarkable. The participants who rated knowledge obtained from the webinar as very good or excellent were more likely to accept webinars as a platform for capacity strengthening. This further reiterates the fact that perceived learning effectiveness or usefulness from online learning activities is a significant predictor of acceptability as established in past studies.[10],[11],[12] Webinar acceptability for strengthening research capacity with participants who prefer zoom and other online platforms may be related to the willingness of individuals who are familiar with online conferencing and meeting applications to use such platforms for learning, communication and capacity-building activities. In addition, previous familiarity with internet-based applications and self-efficacy in using the internet enhances the capacity of learners to derive maximum benefit from subsequent online learning engagements.[11],[13] This further buttress the submission from Cook et al. that the researchers should study the applicability of specific webinar-based learning designs and how to use them effectively.[14]

In terms of appropriateness, the participant found webinar appropriate for strengthening research capacity. This may be related to the geographical flexibility that online interaction has over traditional classroom interaction.[6],[7] The participants who rated the knowledge obtained from the webinar high and had a preference for Zoom and other online platforms affirmed the appropriateness of the webinar for strengthening research capacity.

The participants' perception of feasibility of the webinar was not as strong as their acceptability and appropriateness of the webinar. Participants with no prior knowledge of webinars were more likely to indicate that webinars were not feasible as a means of building/strengthening capacity. The use of webinars to a large extent depends on technology which may slow down its adoption as an alternative to the conventional classroom environment.[6] The finding on feasibility in this study lends credence to the fact that self-efficacy in the use of online technology increases learners ease of use and feasibility of deploying webinars as a tool for capacity building.[13] It also underscores the need to improve users' knowledge of the different online learning applications available and their associated benefits.

It is noteworthy that there was no statistically significant association between the participants' ratings of the feasibility of the webinar and the challenges experienced during the step-down training. This suggests that the highlighted challenges did not hinder the participants from getting satisfaction from the webinar. This may explain the reason why there was a significant association between the participants' rating of webinar feasibility and knowledge gained during the webinar and their preferred ways of learning.

The peak period of engagement of participants during this webinar was within 2 h which may indicate that any continuous engagement of participants longer than this period runs the risk of seeing audience drop-off. It is therefore suggested that an all-day-long webinar should include in-built break-time. The higher retention rate on day two compared to day one implied that participants' fascination increased as they became more familiar and comfortable with participating in the webinar. It may also be related to the knowledge obtained in day one and the fact that day two included topics that were more practical than theoretical.

A sizable number of post-graduate students and researchers in this study still prefer the traditional classroom method of learning which may be attributable to challenges inherent in the use of online-based learning methods such as poor internet connectivity, erratic power supply and the cost of data. Many of these challenges appear to be peculiar to low-income countries like Nigeria. While webinars can be used easily and conveniently for capacity strengthening and learning in developed countries, the feasibility of its use in developing countries such as in Africa will depend largely on the availability of resources and institutional commitment to overcome the identified limitations. Lack of resources has been identified as one of the limitations of research capacity building and strengthening in many African countries,[15],[16] and a combination of virtual learning and face-to-face interactions to enhance maximal learning and satisfaction suggested.[17] Therefore, a hybrid method of teaching that combines online interaction and a few physical contacts for learners in a controlled setting where possible will ensure balance. This may particularly be necessary for a resource-limited setting like Nigeria.

This study was novel in its approach to the assessment of online learning platforms. The involvement of participants, who were researchers across many parts of Nigeria might give strength to the generalisability of the study findings. However, the self-reporting by the participants and the social desirability bias could be limitations, as participants that were less familiar with online learning applications may not have owned up. Future research may focus on qualitative studies to explore wider social and cultural issues that may affect these implementation outcomes.

 Conclusion



In conclusion, the use of webinars for strengthening research capacity was acceptable, appropriate and feasible to the graduate students and researchers who participated in the study. Although there were a number of challenges with webinar, the adoption and promotion of learner-centred approach to the presentation of content will make webinars more acceptable, appropriate and feasible for wider capacity building and research capacity strengthening.

Acknowledgements

We thank all the participants of the CARTA-OAU webinar for their consent to use their data in this study and also acknowledge the support of Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1Uwizeye D, Karimi F, Otukpa E, Ngware MW, Wao H, Igumbor JO, et al. Increasing collaborative research output between early-career health researchers in Africa: Lessons from the CARTA fellowship program. Glob Health Action 2020;13:1-10.
2Somefun OD, Adebayo KO. The role of mentoring in research ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa: Some experiences through the CARTA opportunity. Glob Public Health 2021;16:36-47.
3CARTA. Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) Key messages from CARTA. 2010. p. 1-19.
4Avila CC, Quinn VP, Geiger AM, Kerby TJ, St Charles M, Clough-Gorr KM. Webinar training: An acceptable, feasible and effective approach for multi-site medical record abstraction: The BOWII experience. BMC Res Notes 2011;4:430.
5Nadama HH, Tennyson M, Khajuria A. Evaluating the usefulness and utility of a webinar as a platform to educate students on a UK clinical academic programme. J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2019;49:317-22.
6White A. Reflections on the use of webinar technology for teaching. Hal Open Sci 2019:1-6.
7Gegenfurtner A, Ebner C. Webinars in higher education and professional training: A meta-analysis and systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Educ Res Rev 2019;28:100293.
8Uakarn C, Chaokromthong K, Sintao N. Sample size estimation using yamane and cochran and krejcie and morgan and green formulas and cohen statistical power analysis by G* Power and comparisions. Apheit Int J 2021;10:76-86.
9Weiner BJ, Lewis CC, Stanick C, Powell BJ, Dorsey CN, Clary AS, et al. Psychometric assessment of three newly developed implementation outcome measures. Implement Sci 2017;12:108.
10Brahmasrene T, Lee JW. Determinants of intent to continue using online learning: A Tale of Two Universities. Interdisciplinary J Information Knowledge Management 2012;7:1-20.
11Lee JW. Online support service quality, online learning acceptance, and student satisfaction. Internet High Educ 2010;13:277-83.
12Cheng YM. Effects of quality antecedents on e-learning acceptance. Internet Res 2012;22:361-90.
13Gameel BG, Wilkins KG. When it comes to MOOCs, where you are from makes a difference. Comput Educ 2019;136:49-60.
14Cook DA, Garside S, Levinson AJ, Dupras DM, Montori VM. What do we mean by web-based learning? A systematic review of the variability of interventions. Med Educ 2010;44:765-74.
15Franzen SR, Chandler C, Siribaddana S, Atashili J, Angus B, Lang T. Strategies for developing sustainable health research capacity in low and middle-income countries: A prospective, qualitative study investigating the barriers and enablers to locally led clinical trial conduct in Ethiopia, Cameroon and Sri Lanka. BMJ Open 2017;7:e017246.
16Franzen SR, Chandler C, Lang T. Health research capacity development in low and middle income countries: Reality or rhetoric? A systematic meta-narrative review of the qualitative literature. BMJ Open 2017;7:e012332.
17Ebner C, Gegenfurtner A. Learning and satisfaction in webinar, Online, and face-to-face instruction: A Meta-analysis. Front Educ 2019;4:1-11.