BACKGROUND: Studying abroad promotes cultural awareness and understanding of different healthcare settings and practices but family or financial constraints prevent some students from taking advantage of these opportunities. We developed a virtual classroom learning session to give Danish and Irish midwifery students an opportunity to explore midwifery and maternity care in another country.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the content of midwifery students' chat room discussions about the differences in maternity and midwifery care during an international online learning session, and their opinions of the session.
PARTICIPANTS: 27 Danish and 37 Irish undergraduate direct entry midwifery students.
METHODS: Content analysis of students' chat room discussions and post-session survey.
FINDINGS: Students engaged enthusiastically in the chat room discussions throughout the session. Almost all of the interactivity was between students themselves, and questions raised by students from one country were answered by students in the other country. Discussions centred on the lecture content, rates of interventions and birth outcomes, but developed into broader issues relating to one-to-one midwifery care during labour, factors that facilitate normal birth, national data availability, staffing levels, and financial and cultural aspects of having children at earlier or later ages. In the survey, students described the session as awakening curiosity and a fun way to learn. They found it 'cool' to talk with real students from another country, a memorable way of discussing differences between the two maternity care systems and expanding knowledge. Negative comments related to technological problems.
CONCLUSION: An international virtual classroom learning session can give midwifery students insights into midwifery elsewhere, stimulate curiosity and be an engaging way to learn. Our students' experiences show that it can offer a real, engaging and positive learning experience and enrich students' knowledge of cultural differences.