AbstractObjectives: Several public health education programs and government agencies across the country have started offering virtual or online training programs in emergency preparedness for people who are likely to be involved in managing or responding to different types of emergency situations such as natural disasters, epidemics, bioterrorism, etc. While such online training programs are more convenient and cost-effective than traditional classroom-based programs, their success depends to a great extent on the underlying technological environment. Specifically, in an online technological environment, different types of user experiences come in to play—users’ utilitarian or pragmatic experience, their fun or hedonic experience, their social experience, and most importantly, their usability experience—and these different user experiences critically shape the program outcomes, including course completion rates. This study adopts a multi-disciplinary approach and draws on theories in human computer interaction, distance learning theories, usability research, and online consumer behavior to evaluate users’ experience with the technological environment of an onlinel emergency preparedness training program and discusses its implications for the design of effective online training programs. . Methods: Data was collected using a questionnaire from 377 subjects who had registered for and participated in online public health preparedness training courses offered by a large public university in the Northeast. Results: Analysis of the data indicates that as predicted, participants had higher levels of pragmatic and usability experiences compared to their hedonic and sociability experiences. Results also indicate that people who experienced higher levels of pragmatic, hedonic, sociability and usability experiences were more likely to complete the course(s) they registered for compared to those who reported lower levels. Discussion: The study findings hold important implications for the design of effective online emergency preparedness training targeted at diverse audiences including the general public, health care and public health professionals, and emergency responders. Strategies for improving participants’ pragmatic, hedonic, sociability and usability experiences are outlined. Conclusion: There are ample opportunities to improve the pragmatic, hedonic, sociability and usability experiences of the target audience. This is critical to improve the participants’ learning and retention as well as the completion rates for the courses offered. Online emergency preparedness programs are likely to play a crucial role in preparing emergency responders at all levels in the future and their success has critical implications for public health informatics.
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