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Table of Contents
SHORT COMMUNICATION
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 62-64

Integrating e-learning in MBBS curriculum: Potential challenges and solutions


1 Medical Education Unit Coordinator and Member of the Institute Research Council, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth—Deemed to be University, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth—Deemed to be University, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission15-Feb-2022
Date of Acceptance07-Mar-2022
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2022

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (SBV)—Deemed to be University, Thiruporur–Guduvancherry Main Road, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpet District 603108, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/AMJM.AMJM_12_22

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  Abstract 

The traditional mode of teacher-centered learning in the form of face-to-face lectures in classroom settings has been widely employed as a pedagogical strategy in medical education. Nevertheless, in the last few decades, there has been a shift toward adoption of e-learning considering globalization and the availability of the Internet. E-learning has been successfully employed in various streams of health sciences in different parts of the world with encouraging results. Even though e-learning is being present for quite some time now, the process of transition from traditional to e-learning has its own challenges and it has influenced the overall impact in determining the precise effectiveness. To conclude, e-learning in medical education is associated with multiple benefits for both the students and teachers. It is the need of the hour to identify the potential challenges and accordingly take corrective measures to overcome them and thereby ensure seamless integration with the traditional curriculum.

Keywords: E-learning, medical education, traditional curriculum


How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Integrating e-learning in MBBS curriculum: Potential challenges and solutions. Amrita J Med 2022;18:62-4

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Integrating e-learning in MBBS curriculum: Potential challenges and solutions. Amrita J Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 2];18:62-4. Available from: https://ajmonline.org.in/text.asp?2022/18/2/62/349259




  Introduction Top


The traditional mode of teacher-centered learning in the form of face-to-face lectures in classroom settings has been widely employed as a pedagogical strategy in medical education.[1] The use of the traditional approach has become a sort of teaching culture to such an extent that teachers have been reluctant to adopt other teaching-learning methods.[1] Nevertheless, in the last few decades, there has been a shift toward adoption of e-learning considering globalization and the availability of the Internet.[1],[2] In fact, many medical universities across the globe have established virtual learning environment for the benefit of students, as they are adult learners, who tend to learn at their pace and at their time of convenience, which is not necessarily in classroom settings.[1],[2],[3],[4]


  E-Learning in Medical Education Top


In simple words, e-learning refers to the employment of electronic technology and media to provide learning resource materials to the students, sustain and augment the teaching-learning process.[2] E-learning has been successfully employed in various streams (such as medical, dental, nursing, and public health) of health sciences in different parts of the world with encouraging results.[2],[3],[4] These benefits can be attributed to the easy and effective access to a wide range of information and unlike classroom settings, students can re-visit the information as many number of times till they are confident.[3] The emergence of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has definitely acted as one of the crucial boost toward strengthening of e-learning and its integration with the traditional approach of medical curriculum delivery.[4],[5]


  E-Learning and Self-Directed Learning Top


During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of videoconferencing tools were employed by the medical institutions to facilitate delivery of medical education.[5] E-learning was delivered to students either synchronously (viz. both teachers and students were present at the same time) or asynchronously (wherein students utilized the learning resource materials online for knowledge acquisition in the absence of a teacher).[1],[2],[3] Considering that these planned teaching-learning sessions were running for 4–6 hours per day, it was not possible for every medical student to be available online (owing to data constraints, Internet availability, and domestic chores), and thus asynchronous learning became quite important. As a matter of fact, as all the medical students are adult learner, we cannot expect them to learn only during synchronous sessions. Thus, the availability of e-learning facilitated the use of learning resource materials after the sessions are over and encouraged the practice of self-directed learning.[2],[3],[4] This attribute of self-directed learning is extremely crucial in the making of a lifelong learner, which is expected of a medical graduate.[3],[6] In fact, even in the recently adopted competency-based medical education for undergraduates, one of the learning competencies is the ability of a medical student to use e-learning resources. On the similar lines, specific number of hours have been assigned to self-directed learning in each of the professional years, and in the absence of physical classrooms, e-learning proved to be a viable tool to encourage self-directed learning.


  Potential Challenges in Integrating E-Learning Top


Even though e-learning is being present for quite some time now, their precise impact on augmenting the learning among students is still a debatable issue in medical education. At the same time, the process of transition from traditional to e-learning has its own challenges and it has influenced the overall impact in determining the precise effectiveness.[6] One of the important challenges has been the lack of skills among the teachers or their reluctance to adopt or negative attitude for e-learning as the teaching-learning methodology, and this has been quite frequent amongst senior faculty members, who have been trained and now are teaching students using the same traditional approach.[6],[7]

Considering the fact that teachers have to discharge multiple roles other than teaching (viz. researcher, assessor, administrator, curriculum planner and evaluator, mentor, and clinician), the time factor become quite crucial.[7],[8] The teachers are under extreme pressure to allocate time for different roles assigned to them, and at the same time maintain a balance between personal and professional life. The adoption of e-learning means that teachers have to invest a significant amount of time to learn the practices to implement them in a meaningful manner, but this will come at the cost of jeopardizing many other roles.[6],[7],[8] As the implementation of e-learning in a medical institution will require an administrative push, and financial investment in building the desired infrastructure (adequate number of computers or learning management system) and technological support, it becomes a challenging task to do so in low-middle income nations.[7],[8],[9]

Moreover, issues pertaining to the lack of support of faculty members in the department or poor inter-departmental communication have also emerged as a major barrier in ensuring seamless planning and implementation of e-learning.[6],[7] In addition, issues pertaining to difficulties encountered in actively engaging students during e-learning sessions were also found to be a major factor as a significant amount of self-motivation is required to continue learning.[7],[8],[9],[10] Further, lack of basic computer skills or negative attitude amongst students is also an impediment toward successful adoption of e-learning. Also, absence of alignment between the curriculum content and the teaching method or assessment method is also expected to become a significant challenge in enhancing acceptance amongst medical students.[6],[7],[8],[9]


  Strategies to Overcome the Challenges Top


Successful implementation of e-learning has become the need of the hour and it is the responsibility of the administrators and other stakeholders to ensure that all the existing challenges are sorted out.[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12] In order to address the teacher-related factors (such as skill shortage, reluctance, or opposition), the best approach will be to sensitize and train them about the need, scope, and tools for e-learning and how it can help the teacher community to ensure the attainment of learning competencies.[9],[10] The Medical Education Unit of the institution can plan for a series of training workshop to address these objectives and faculty members can be trained about the basic tools used in e-learning.

As far as time constraints are concerned, the teachers should be made to understand that adoption of digital tools is a new learning experience and in due course it will save them loads of time. Further, in the beginning, teachers can be recognized for their contribution toward e-learning applications and this will act as a motivating factor for them.[10],[11] Even though financial investment is required to begin the course, we have to realize that it is a one-time investment, and in the long run, the overall cost required to run a traditional course (in comparison to an e-learning course) is much higher.[8],[9],[10] The issues of poor or lack in communication can be sorted out by formulating committees in each professional year, with members being present from all subjects. In fact, this can be followed-up by organizing a series of meetings to discuss and formulate the overall teaching schedule, which eventually makes all faculty members accountable.[7],[10],[12]

The administrators and management can strengthen the process of planning and implementation of e-learning and its integration with the traditional curriculum by appointing qualified technical staff, financial support, and by some or the other kind of hand-holding in the initial stages, till teachers are confident.[9],[11] We must remember that unless students are also convinced about e-learning, we will not be able to sustain e-learning, and thus even the students should be sensitized about the same and informed about the various e-learning sessions or applications well in advance.[6],[7],[8],[9] However, the best strategy will be to propose the introduction of e-learning in the traditional curriculum as one of the regulations by the regulatory body in a phase-wise manner.[7],[9],[10],[11]


  Lessons From the Field Top


At Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, a constituent unit of the Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Deemed-to-be-University, Puducherry, realizing the needs of the medical students, e-learning has been gradually integrated in the delivery of the medical curriculum. The undergraduate medical students have been exposed to both synchronous (videoconferencing applications) and asynchronous (via learning management system) forms of learning. On the other hand, the postgraduate students have been exposed to e-portfolio to encourage reflective learning. The Medical Education Unit of the institute has been instrumental in not only organizing different faculty development programmes, but has also taken the lead to organize training sessions for postgraduate students periodically to empower them to use these tools for self-betterment.


  Conclusion Top


To conclude, e-learning in medical education is associated with multiple benefits for both the students and teachers. It is the need of the hour to identify the potential challenges and accordingly take corrective measures to overcome them and thereby ensure seamless integration with the traditional curriculum.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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Walsh S, De Villiers MR, Golakai VK Introducing an E-learning solution for medical education in Liberia. Ann Glob Health 2018;84:190-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Dhir SK, Verma D, Batta M, Mishra D E-learning in medical education in India. Indian Pediatr 2017;54:871-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Reed S, Shell R, Kassis K, Tartaglia K, Wallihan R, Smith K, et al. Applying adult learning practices in medical education. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care 2014;44:170-81.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
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Baral G, Baral RS E-learning: A modality of medical education in the period of crisis. J Nepal Health Res Counc 2021;18:776-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Baticulon RE, Sy JJ, Alberto NRI, Baron MBC, Mabulay REC, Rizada LGT, et al. Barriers to online learning in the time of Covid-19: A national survey of medical students in the Philippines. Med Sci Educ 2021;31:615-26.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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Uprichard K E-learning in a new era: Enablers and barriers to its implementation in nursing. Br J Community Nurs 2020;25:272-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
O’Doherty D, Dromey M, Lougheed J, Hannigan A, Last J, McGrath D Barriers and solutions to online learning in medical education - an integrative review. Bmc Med Educ 2018;18:130.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Kaur H, Singh A, Mahajan S, Lal M, Singh G, Kaur P Assessment of barriers and motivators to online learning among medical undergraduates of Punjab. J Educ Health Promot 2021;10:123.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Regmi K, Jones L A systematic review of the factors - enablers and barriers - affecting e-learning in health sciences education. Bmc Med Educ 2020;20:91.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Olum R, Atulinda L, Kigozi E, Nassozi DR, Mulekwa A, Bongomin F, et al. Medical education and E-learning during Covid-19 pandemic: Awareness, attitudes, preferences, and barriers among undergraduate medicine and nursing students at Makerere University, Uganda. J Med Educ Curric Dev 2020;7:2382120520973212.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Lakbala P Barriers in implementing E-learning in Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences. Glob J Health Sci 2015;8:83-92.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Gagnon MP, Légaré F, Labrecque M, Frémont P, Cauchon M, Desmartis M Perceived barriers to completing an e-learning program on evidence-based medicine. Inform Prim Care 2007;15:83-91.  Back to cited text no. 12
    




 

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  In this article
Abstract
Introduction
E-Learning in Me...
E-Learning and S...
Potential Challe...
Strategies to Ov...
Lessons From the...
Conclusion
References

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