In March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented disruption of healthcare systems and medical education globally. Today, the healthcare and education sectors are still grappling with Covid-19 and finding ways to adapt to the new normal. Medical education, in particular, has been a challenge due to its immersive, hands-on nature that is based primarily on lectures, labs, and patient-based education. Medical schools now face the challenge of upholding medical education’s integrity while ensuring that instructors deliver lectures efficiently.
Challenges of Medical Education amid a Pandemic
The contagious nature of Covid-19 has made it challenging to continue medical education as usual, and the challenges encountered by medical schools worldwide include, but are not limited to:
- Restrictions emanating from social distancing guidelines
- Limited patient care due to a focus on Covid-19, which has significantly reduced opportunities for hands-on, bedside teaching opportunities
- Suspension of clinical rotations
- Fear of students/instructors contracting the virus while training and the possibility of transmitting it to their communities.
Covid-19 and Innovation in Medical Education
In 2020 and beyond, medical schools learn to adapt and develop curriculum that provides medical students with avenues for continuous learning while also avoiding delays and risks due to the pandemic. The task is daunting, but pivoting to a primarily online model is possible and has its benefits.
Some of the most common medical education interventions include online learning and digital tools to enhance the remote learning experience. A disruption in educational structure is not the end of the world but an opportunity to maximize online learning benefits as a complementary tool to face-to-face learning.
Some innovative adaptations that medical learning institutions have made during the pandemic are:
- The development of new distance learning platforms on which content can be released and viewed at students’ convenience
- Remote delivery of lectures using digital media
- The use of question banks and other online active recall resources
- Adoption and implementation of already available technologies, including video conferencing software and social media platforms
Benefits of Online Medical Classes
While in-person clinical experiences are difficult to replicate in a virtual format, online medical education is an effective adaption that is here to stay. Beyond Covid-19, we can expect further use of online teaching methods to supplement traditional medical education. This new approach may even accompany a shift towards virtual medical consultations, also known as “telemedicine.”
Rather than viewing the pandemic as a disruption to medical education, many institutions realize that it is a renewed opportunity to improve distance learning techniques and benefit from digital tools and today’s digital connectivity to enhance traditional education. We are confident that this new model of medical education delivery will extend in the post-pandemic environment.
Self-directed e-learning programs responsive to the dynamic healthcare sector may lead to better knowledge retention than traditional, didactic lectures.
Here are a few benefits of online medical classes:
- As a student, you have more control over your learning time, allowing you to complete much of the curriculum at a time convenient to you.
- Online programs that are interactive and occur in real-time result in better and personalized engagement from students.
- When the flipped-classroom model is used, which requires students to complete online modules before in-person sessions, there is a better use of in-class time.
- Quiz-based online courses provide real-time feedback, engagement, and healthy competition and are excellent ways to reinforce concepts taught in the classroom.
- Virtual discussion boards provide a safe space where students can freely express their opinions and ideas.
- Students generally feel confident about using online learning features such as open discussion forums, closed groups, private messaging, and feedback submission forms.
Factors to be considered:
- Courses like Gross Anatomy, which requires laboratory interventions, will face challenges in fulfilling the course requirements in a fully online model. A hybrid model will be more appropriate for courses with lab components.
- Courses like Physical or Clinical Diagnosis requires patient interaction, and at times one to one interaction with faculty and students will also be required.
- A typical online structure of self-driven content might work in medical education as faculty interaction is equally important, and a hybrid model will be more advantageous.
- Clinical courses require patient exposure which cannot be supplemented with online learning. While newer technologies have brought simulated patients and scenarios, the hands-on clinical experience cannot be replaced.
Study Tips for Medical Aspirants Taking Online Classes
Medical study is not an easy feat, and medical students must absorb their professors’ lessons well enough to apply that knowledge during a health crisis. For some students, the transition to a new format of learning may be daunting at first. So how can you, as a student, adapt to online medical classes? Here are a few tips:
- Use online organization and time management tools such as Trello or Google Calendar to help you manage your tasks, assessments, assignments, and more.
- Technology is not perfect – plan around it. You may have an equipment failure, or your internet connection may falter. If something unfortunate happens, you should be prepared and have a Plan-B.
Try your best to avoid submitting your assignments at the last minute as it increases the risk of delay in the event of a technical incident. It is also helpful to use a cloud storage platform to store your assignments and other vital documents. Google Drive and Microsoft’s One Drive are two great platforms that automatically safeguard your files.
- Develop a study routine and stick to it. The transition from in-person learning to online learning requires greater self-discipline and time management. People who struggle with maintaining practices can find online learning challenging. It is helpful to set aside designated days for studying where you catch up on lectures and other class material.
- Create a study space in your home if possible. A study space is a corner in your home, designated strictly to studying instead of studying in bed or on your couch. Designated study spaces often positively impact your productivity.
- Check your school email and study portals daily. Due to the absence of physical lectures and a physical study group, it is relatively easy to find yourself out of the loop regarding study and classes. Ensure that you check in frequently with your school email, study portal, and other digital tools used by your school to stay updated on important information.
- Attend your online classes. Medical education is immersive by nature, and it should go without saying that while online courses offer flexibility and convenience, you must attend each class. Although you may have access to recorded lectures, showing up and participating in live classes and tutorial sessions, just like you would in a campus environment, is essential in maintaining the learning process flow.
- Connect with classmates. Establishing relationships with your fellow medical aspirants is a great way to get academic, social, and emotional support. Organize Zoom study sessions, participate in online social activities, and join virtual groups with students who have similar interests.
- Get in touch with your lecturers. If you have questions or require further explanation on something taught during class, don’t be afraid to email your lecturers and keep in close contact with them. If your lecturers offer online office hours, make full use of them.
The Future of Medical Education in a Post-Pandemic World
Medical education institutions worldwide are predicting long-term shifts in medical education that may become the new normal. Many interventions, such as effective online instruction, will most likely be sustained in the post-pandemic environment and reshape the medical education landscape for years to come. It is no secret that technology is playing a more significant role in teaching core clinical skills as things like simulation centers and computerized anatomy laboratories become more prevalent.
Large-scale adoption of online education during Covid-19 shows that schools can achieve medical education objectives virtually. Preclinical students who value adaptative and self-directed study will significantly benefit from this new learning format. In a world threatened by the pandemic, the medical curriculum will ensure more focus on infection control, pandemic modeling, public health, and telemedicine, among other areas. Medical education will have to adapt to ensure that new medical aspirants have modern tools to respond to unexpected medical events in the future.
Of course, innovation in the medical field will always retain certain traditional medical education elements that we cannot substitute. Professionalism and community service will still be the core characteristics of medical practitioners. Further, clinical competency will always be a critical tool in ensuring that medical aspirants have the requisite skills and knowledge to deliver safe and effective patient care.
However, we can all agree that medical education will never be the same again. Medical schools, accrediting agencies, and aspiring medical practitioners will all have to prepare themselves to adapt. As a medical student, you are now a part of a new medical education era based on the principles of flexibility, availability, and integrity.
Are you searching for a medical school? Texila American University (TAU) is a pioneer in medical education and has been developing great minds in medicine for more than a decade. TAU prides itself in providing innovative research opportunities and education for aspiring healthcare professionals in a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking, and creativity. Please find out more about TAU’s Medical Program by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.