Solutions to close the pandemic-induced medical education gap
In India, the lack of medical human resources is a major challenge. The problem is not just about numbers; but there are also distribution and quality issues. Availability, accessibility and quality – everything must be worked out.
The pandemic-induced havoc on India’s medical education sector has resulted in serious long-term damage that requires careful attention. The shortened academic calendars have led to the delivery of the program in the shortest possible time and students and teachers find themselves stressed. Whether under these difficult circumstances medical schools can continue to deliver the CBME program introduced in 2019 is another issue.
With the uncertainty surrounding the NEET or NEXT exams, medical students continue to search for answers about their future. The fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine has led thousands of Indian medical students enrolled in colleges in China and Eastern European countries to return to India without medical degrees.
How do you continue to learn in these dark times? It should be a blend of blended and distance learning aided by technology. The need for authentic and detailed digital resources for medical students is of paramount urgency and several medical schools are bringing this content together.
Good teachers who can enthrall their students with clinical materials and clinical videos can help thousands of students achieve a certain level of knowledge-based expertise and skills. Technologies based on remote simulation, AR, VR and 3D visuals are slowly gaining ground. While content is more readily available for USMLE and PLAB students, programs based on the Indian CBME curriculum are even fewer.
Despite having grown up in a connected and online world, students feel that online workshops or virtual group sessions could not effectively replace interactions. They miss the “normal” interactions with teachers and peers in the usual study plan. This lack of interaction raises concerns about potential gaps in their medical knowledge and potential consequences when practicing medicine.
The pandemic has profoundly affected the medical profession through increasingly harsh working conditions, necessary adaptations to help on the front lines, and unprecedented public attention. These circumstances are likely to affect the student’s perception of the role of health professional and therefore his professional identity which is built as it is built within the framework of his studies, with his peers, teachers and role models.
The new CBME program has brought several welcome innovations in pedagogy and assessments. With the pandemic, medical colleges in India have quickly shifted to e-learning while pushing back most prescribed innovations. In addition to dealing with unfamiliar online teaching practices, professors face multiple challenges teaching and assessing skills in the shortened academic calendar.
Students must learn completely new skills with minimal hands-on and mentorship and quickly overcome challenges when information hits them from all directions. In search of adequate educational support, students resolved to use online digital resources offering reliable content that could be useful not only for regular learning, but also for class and session examinations, and preparing for the NEXT tests.
The healthcare teaching community focuses on certain values and attitudes in medicine, such as interprofessional collaboration and good communication skills to interact effectively with patients.
Learner engagement is not fixed throughout the learning experience, but rather changes, often quite rapidly, due to the learner and the environment. Health education, especially online educational resources, should focus on the three dimensions of learner engagement: affective, cognitive, and situational.
Digital learning resources help students learn independently, providing just enough instruction to navigate their learning journey. Online learning platforms rely on self-regulation, self-motivation, and learning goals that students set for themselves. Although the content is visually appealing, the lectures and videos simulate a classroom experience and have a degree of teacher presence.
In addition, there is a need to apply a set of proven strategies to harness student engagement and explore ways to use online resources to make teaching more effective and student learning more sustainable. Learning should be personalized to suit fast and slow learners, superficial, deep and strategic learners, and students with well-defined learning needs.
Therefore, there is a need to create content that can be consumed by visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners and include components for each type of learner. Including course content that motivates learners to explore beyond the boundaries of the curriculum is another way to engage learners.
Digital content can also be used in a blended learning setting to support classroom learning activities. These platforms can support interactive classroom learning methods using online discussion forums for students, thereby connecting students and encouraging group learning. Problems and projects can be shared with students online, broadening the scope of student participation, making the program truly student-centered.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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