German dental faculty attitudes towards computer-assisted simulation systems correlated with personal and professional profiles

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Abstract

Background

Computer technology is increasingly used in practical training at universities. However, in spite of their potential, computer-assisted simulation (CAS) systems still appear to be underutilised.

Objectives

To investigate the practical usage of CAS/computer-assisted learning (CAL) systems, the familiarity and level of use of CAS systems, as well as the acceptance of approved learning content and English as the language of instruction in CAS/CAL systems.

Methods

A survey was conducted in the Departments of Conservative Dentistry and Prosthetic Dentistry of all 32 dental schools in Germany. Besides investigating the usefulness of, familiarity with and level of current usage of CAS systems, the questionnaire also contained questions regarding each respondent's gender, age, academic rank, experience in academia and computer skills, all of which correlated with the responses.

Results

The response rate was 90% (112 out of 125). The use of CAS/CAL systems was considered ‘partly’ to ‘very’ useful for evaluating the acquisition of knowledge (83.9%), qualitative issues (73.2%) and processes (72.3%) of dental preparation exercises and complex treatment strategies. However, only about half the respondents reported that they knew of, and even fewer used, the following systems in preclinical or clinical training: EDUnet (KaVo, Germany) (46.3%/0.9 %), PREPassistant (KaVo, Germany) (50%/0.9%), or the DentSim system (DenX, Israel) (52.8%/1.9%). The virtual simulation system VRDTS-CP (Novint, USA), used by none of the respondents, was known to only 16.5%. Responders agreed at least partly to accept approved learning content (74.9%) and English as the language of instruction (82.1%) as the standards for CAS systems.

Conclusion

The survey indicates a distinct discrepancy between a generally positive attitude towards the usefulness of computer technology for dental education, the level of familiarity with current computer systems and their actual use. However, two prerequisites for ultimately decreasing the cost and increasing the usage of CAS systems – the acceptance of approved learning content and English as the language of instruction in CAS systems – seem to be generally accepted by respondents.

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