Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Robin Hurst,

Second Advisor

Dr. Jesse Senechal

Third Advisor

Dr. LaRon Scott

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Manoj Thomas


Internet-based Behavior of IT Professionals: Implications for Online Ergonomic Education to Prevent Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

By Priyadarshini Pattath, Ph.D.

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University, 2017

Director: Dr. Robin Hurst, Assistant Professor of Adult Learning, Teaching and Learning, School of Education

The purpose of this study was to explore the preferences of medium of ergonomic education and views about self-directed online training modules to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in computer professionals and understand their perspectives and experiences about online health information seeking using a self-directed learning framework. To accomplish this, a qualitative research design was used to analyze data from interviews and observation. An exploratory case study research design was employed to examine the experiences of fifteen information technology professionals from a mid-Atlantic state organization. The findings revealed that the computer professionals were aware of the risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders due to their work; and had made adjustments to their work-station. They sourced this information from different sources like workplace and the Internet. The sources included healthcare providers, friends, family and colleagues. Media like television, and print media was also referred for health information. Findings indicated that many of information technology preferred a participatory approach for ergonomic education, while some preferred the online medium of delivery. A combination of delivery approaches was also preferred. Follow-up after the intervention was identified as a critical aspect for the success of the intervention. Findings indicated that the online medium of ergonomic delivery was relevant and trustworthy and empowered the information technology professionals, but varied as per personal attributes.

Findings illustrated that Internet was the first source of reference for wellness and prevention information to maintain a healthy lifestyle, alleviate and prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The findings highlighted the role of the Internet in making significant lifestyle modifications, and individual contextual factors like ergonomic adjustments in work-station. Additionally, findings emphasized the role of the health information seeking behavior on the Internet in making the information technology professionals more confident in their treatment options and to better manage their healthcare. Finally, the findings highlighted the barriers that were faced when seeking health information on the Internet; volume of information, issues of trust and credibility and distractions. The findings of this study were limited by the nature of the research and sample size. Additional research is needed to support the findings. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


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Available for download on Thursday, June 23, 2022