The Role of E-Learning in Medical Education

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Excerpt

The environment in which medical students learn today is vastly different than it was 20 years ago when the Internet was not such a dominant tool in medical education. E-learning platforms are now increasingly utilized by medical schools around the world and comprise adaptive tutorials, audiovisual clips, and virtual models. These educational media possess several distinct advantages over traditional didactic models of instruction, including the ability to update material in a timely manner to ensure delivery of the latest evidence-based content to trainees. E-learning has been demonstrated to be as effective as conventional didacticism and can be used to foster self-directed learning.1 It encourages medical students to exert greater control over their learning by allowing flexibility over content and pace. In such models, educators can evaluate competencies objectively through online assessments, enabling students to receive personalized feedback for self-improvement.
E-learning will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the environment in which future medical students learn. The gradual shift towards e-learning is seen as a catalyst for applying adult learning theory, which will see more medical educators taking on the role of facilitator and assessor of competency.1 Most medical students view e-learning as enjoyable and effective but, interestingly, do not see it replacing traditional didactic methods.2 Indeed, e-learning is often a complement to instructor-led methods in a blended approach. Studies on nursing and medical students have demonstrated that satisfaction is consistently higher in a blended learning environment compared with a traditional lecture setting. However, this satisfaction is not correlated with test scores, where there is often no significant difference between the two pedagogic approaches.3,4 Further research is needed to establish the role of blended learning in medical education.
Medical educators should continue to engage with e-learning in an effort to come up with innovative approaches to train medical students. As a medical student, I can attest that new educational methods are always appreciated and have the potential to provide better engagement compared with traditional didacticism.
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