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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 144-146

The advantages and disadvantages of online teaching in medical education

Medical Student, MBBS 3rd Year, Government Doon Medical College, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

Date of Submission12-Sep-2020
Date of Decision18-Sep-2020
Date of Acceptance30-Sep-2020
Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Miss Stuty Jayara
Government Doon Medical College, Patel Nagar, Dehradun - 248 001, Uttarakhand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_159_20

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How to cite this article:
Jayara S. The advantages and disadvantages of online teaching in medical education. J Med Evid 2020;1:144-6

How to cite this URL:
Jayara S. The advantages and disadvantages of online teaching in medical education. J Med Evid [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Jun 7];1:144-6. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2020/1/2/144/303555

  Introduction Top

With the rapid dawn of the era of information and communication technology, the acceptance of a new way of learning – online education – has seen a massive boom. Hurtling us a decade ahead, the COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone feel the need to adopt the online teaching–learning methodology to serve the dual purposes of continuation of education while discontinuation of the chain of transmission of the virus to a number of people. In the prevailing circumstances, universities and colleges can be seen rapidly redrafting their curriculum to make it more flexible with the online-based system protocols. As educationists and scholars transit and adapt to this new pedagogic approach, some are fully utilising the resources that the virtual world offers, but there are still some fractions of people who are unable to accept and get used to this new mode of teaching and learning. Medical science is a field where new discoveries and advancements take place every now and then, leading ?to rapid innovations in healthcare information and technology (HIT). All medical students as doctors will have to manage the vastly increased amounts of biomedical and clinical records, irrespective of the speciality they choose.[1] These are clear indications for the medical schools to reconsider the conventional teaching and training methods for medical students to adopt a dynamic instead of a static format for medical education with the aim to prepare and keep the students abreast with all the updated information on time. Online learning is a potential educational method which can fulfil this need by providing the medical students updated information on a regular basis and to teach core biomedical informatics competencies that address HIT.[1] It can all go smoothly till it is questioned: how much better is online teaching than the traditional didactic methods of learning in medical education? Is online teaching and learning acceptable to everyone in the medical fraternity? Though technology has reshaped the way of learning, does it have enough advanced digital tools that can fulfil the needs of medical teaching and learning?

  Advantages Top

As defined by the US Department of Education (2010), online learning is, 'learning that takes place partially or entirely over the Internet'. Online learning or e-learning or web-based learning is a recent educational paradigm that has created a learning environment in which medical students have easier access to course-related study materials, instructions and applications at any place and at any time. Students can easily access and download the e-books or e-notes available online instead of carrying around a bulky set of books. This reduces not only the burden of students but also helps them cut down on the cost of the books. Online learning provides students with the facility to watch various recorded lectures other than regular classroom ones to get a better understanding of the subject. Using this forum, medical scholars also get an opportunity to interact and study directly from the experts of their respective fields through online video lectures, apps, courses, webinars, conferences, etc., from all across the globe. Humongous amount of information is available on the Internet, which keeps getting rapidly updated according to the latest guidelines and patterns of the medical field. This also allows all learners to have a common authentic source, thus maintaining universality of information being posted, even about the rarest of cases and diseases from every nook and cranny of the world. With the introduction of the Massive Open Online Courses that provide quality courses from the best medical universities of the world, students have got mammoth opportunities to enhance their knowledge and experience in their areas of interest. The use of various teaching aids and digital tools such as demonstrations, case discussions, virtual patients, tutorials, animations and projects makes the classes in online learning more interesting and helps to break the monotony. Given the availability of e-notes, students can pay complete attention in classroom to understand the concept that is being taught and later add other key points and compile the notes for their future usage. This method also helps in encouraging students' participation and interaction on diverse topics and cases being discussed in the class. Both the students and teachers from various medical colleges are of the opinion that online learning modalities have encouraged student-centeredness and self-directed learning of students during this lockdown situation.[2] Online learning is a cost-effective educational method for medical colleges, as the usage of this platform can help students learn even in remote places with medium infrastructure and minimum equipment by using audio–visual clips, adaptive tutorials, virtual models, etc., for theoretical purposes as well as to demonstrate practical work. Online classes can reduce the burden of medical staff, who are supposed to play the twin role of a teacher as well as a doctor, and can even help compensate for the scarcity of staff members such as teachers, instructors and lab technicians.[3] For students, online classes are cost-effective as they also reduce the travelling cost and save time, making it especially beneficial for those who are sick or cannot travel. Online learning has also helped in practicing social distancing that is a necessary precaution to stop the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

  Disadvantages Top

There exists a flip side to the helpful and creative online learning methods. Students are at a disadvantage when it comes to acquiring practical and clinical skills that are required to become a competent clinician. From the dissection of a cadaver in the 1st year and autopsy in the 2nd year to understanding the surgical and clinical methods of treating a patient in the final year of an undergraduate medical course, require hands-on and real-life experience that cannot be simulated or substituted by the virtual method. Erratic internet connection during lectures reduces classroom participation as it becomes difficult for teachers to interact with their students, while the latter struggle to focus. For the budding doctors, it is essential to get all their doubts and queries cleared to have a good understanding of every concept, but post online lectures, few students remember their questions and some find it difficult to get their doubts clarified via phone or E-mail. The professors in medical colleges are generally available only for a few hours, and this again acts as a hindrance in the teacher–student understanding. Online classes cannot compete with the conventional or offline medical classrooms because during offline classes there is more direct communication, emotional connect, social interaction and teamwork, which build up a strong student–teacher relationship, and the student being under continuous scrutiny of the teacher tends to behave more sincerely and pays more attention. In a research study, one of the limitations felt by the faculty members was that due to lack of immediate feedback, teachers were unable to assess students' comprehension level during online lecturing, while on the other hand, students reported to having a limited attention span and resource-intensive nature of online learning.[3] Furthermore, many students stated that during the usage of mobiles and tablets for online classes, they find it hard to resist the temptation of scrolling through social media sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. As students have to learn in an isolated environment that is without regular and direct interaction with teachers and peers who could have motivated them regularly to work harder, they might fall behind due to various distractions. This isolated learning can affect the overall growth of introvert students because they would have fewer chances of interaction and can easily hide behind their cameras. Some teachers also mentioned that during online classes, students have misbehaved and tried to access online resources during assessments.[4] As medical institutions are required to maintain high-quality standards of medical education, it becomes difficult for them to get honest and immediate reviews and feedbacks from students due to the lack of proper surveillance system. The faculty members and students have to be given adequate training and guidance regarding the use of different technological aids and digital tools because online learning and its effectiveness depend on an individual's capability of putting the technology-equipped device to its full use by personalisation.

  Conclusion Top

'A model using e-learning in education' by Algahtani states that e-learning can be used as an adjunct to the traditional education system or can be blended with it or can be completely online.[5] Blended teaching–learning method (i.e., integration of online learning with the traditional classes) is the best way to balance the shortcomings of the two pedagogic approaches of learning in medical education. On the one hand, we have the basic knowledge and practical skills that need to be provided more effectively in traditional classrooms by direct communication, interaction and feedback, whereas on the other hand, there is a self-paced and flexible way of learning in online world with no restriction of time and place. The online method keeps students regularly updated with the latest information of healthcare system and helps them refine their basic practical and clinical skills. This can help scholars enhance their knowledge through innovative approaches which can be achieved by online learning, thus making it an effective teaching method, but its limitations prevent it from being considered the sole teaching method in medical education. Therefore, the blended teaching–learning methodology allows students to make the full use of both, depending on their individual capability. Virtual means something in essence or computer simulation but not existing in actual. Technology wonderfully strives to blur this line and makes the virtual experiences more real, but it still cannot completely remove this line. Irrespective of how much advanced online learning becomes, it cannot replace the real classroom experience, the sacred teacher–student relationships and the fun of studying in a real class with our peers.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Triola MM, Friedman E, Cimino C, Geyer EM, Wiederhorn J, Mainiero C. Health information technology and the medical school curriculum. Am J Manag Care 2010;16:SP54-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
Mukhtar K, Javed K, Arooj M, Sethi A. Advantages, limitations and recommendations for online learning during COVID-19 pandemic era. Pak J Med Sci 2020;3:S27-31.  Back to cited text no. 2
Valentina A, Nelly A. The role of e-learning, the advantages and disadvantages of its adoption in higher education. IJERN 2004;2:397-410.  Back to cited text no. 3
Blakey L. The proliferation, pitfalls, and power of online education. In: Gearhart D, editor. Cases on Distance Delivery and Learning Outcomes: Emerging Trends and Programs. USA: IGI Global; 2010. p. 167-89.  Back to cited text no. 4
Algahtani AF. Evaluating the Effectiveness of the E-learning Experience in Some Universities in Saudi Arabia from Male Students' Perceptions. Durham Theses: Durham University; 2011. Available from: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/3215/. [Last accessed on 2020 Sep 17].  Back to cited text no. 5


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