Current trends in dental education are related to the emerging internet related changes. Changes over the past decade have significantly changed delivery of dental education. Although dentistry is a highly psychomotor profession, eLearning has become a significant part of our education. Videos through various sources from you tube, manufacturer sites as well as various schools are utilized by learners to learn new techniques and review of old ones. Social media professional chat sites link learners all around the world. Questions are answered by leading experts within seconds. Research is conducted online and cross referenced with ease and reliability. Peer-reviewed articles and resources are now at the fingertips of learners.
I completed my education over 19 years ago. There were no online learning resources at that time. I am pleasantly shocked to experience these changes. My lectures are posted on UBC Connect for all my students to review and access prior to presentation. Students make all their notes on their laptops and save them accordingly. There is constant communication between instructors and students through campus email as well as texting and skyping. I feel that student learning is supported more than ever. Yesterday, a student emailed me about a personal issue related to an upcoming clinical session. I thanked him for bringing his concerns to my attention and alleviated his stress by immediately addressing them. His problem was resolved in minutes. I was pleased to be able to provide a nurtured and safe learning environment for the student.
Chalk boards and overheads are a “thing in the past”. Printouts and handouts are no longer needed. I usually email my handouts to students and have them email assignments to me. Submissions are thus documented more accurately while ‘saving the environment’. Demonstrations are recorded and placed in lecture files for future reference. Supporting videos and presentations are posted on lecture sites for flipped classroom experiences as well reference sources.
With respect to research topics, students are able to access thousands of sources online within minutes. My role is to guide them so that they can critically evaluate their findings. Students are very capable of conducting online research but lack the ability to critique them; just because information is online, it does not mean it is accurate. I usually encourage students to find several resources and compare them to one another. I find critical evaluation of findings helps further reinforce learning than stand-alone lectures.
For most psychomotor skills, students are provided various online resources to review before lecture and clinical sessions. I plan to educate myself so that I can develop adequate psychomotor skill related videos for students. Videos are ideal learning tools for all students. By watching procedural videos, students can both listen and watch demonstrators implement steps of a procedure. There are subtle techniques that can be learned and reinforced through this exercise. Videos are easily accessed at the convenience of the learners. I do warn my students that not all videos conform to the University of British Columbia (U.B.C.) recommended protocols. As such, I have incorporated a new learning tool. I utilize various videos as a source of discussion. I specifically select videos that conflict with the U.B.C. protocol of practice. These discussion sessions have been a great tool reinforcing learning outcomes. After watching a video, I ask students questions about the video such as why is the carver used with a push stroke and not a pull stroke? How does the pull stroke of carving affect the outcome of the filling? Why do you think the demonstrator held his/her instrument the way he/she did on the screen?
Online courses are also a new and upcoming trend in dentistry. Course materials can be presented online and thus accessed at the learner’s leisure and comfort. As such, educators are needed to develop such courses. Courses through the Center of Teaching and Learning Technology (CTLT) have been a great resource at U.B.C. Fortunately, with greater online course demands, there has been more funding available to develop such courses. There seems to be more and more course development each term. Offering courses online not only attracts students, but also allows instructors greater freedom from structured lecture delivery and classroom setting. All these variables contribute to cost savings for the university and greater access to students around the world and leading to increased tuition funds.
I have to admit that although I have enjoyed the new trends and changes in my field, I do find keeping up with technological advances to be intimidating and challenging. The number of software options and techniques seem to be endless. At the most recent CTLT session, each participant was asked to discuss their favorite online classroom tool. Each of the sixteen participants offered a different tool. I was only aware of two of the software programs. I am hoping that participating in the current trends courses and lectures offered by CTLT, I will become more aware of future changes and possibilities.
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