Digital learning equally effective for medical field

January 22nd, 2015

A recent review of 108 separate studies carried out by Imperial College London concluded that learning through digital means is just as effective as a traditional education for those training in medical fields like dentistry. The study went so far as to check whether a curriculum followed solely online would be as useful to a doctor as one conducted with a professor in a classroom. Even under conditions as strict as those, it was found that people can learn equally well.

Imagine, then, how much more effective an education must be if it were done with both electronic learning and traditional lectures.

Digital learning is being studied in the U.S. as well, in places like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The goal is to find means for reaching students across many different channels in order to teach them at multiple levels. One part of an education is the lecture, while another part would be homework done online and graded automatically. Furthermore, students could study by identifying the areas where they are struggling and asking for help in those subjects. Or, a professor could use a flipped classroom approach, and have the homework be listening to or watching a lecture, and reserve the classroom time for doing homework.

Different states in the U.S. are using software to teach
Dental academic software is useful in a variety of contexts. New Hanover county schools in North Carolina are using software like this to help students learn, according to the Star News. The state is planning to transition completely off of textbooks and teach solely through digital materials. This would be a major benefit for schools and students alike. Textbooks would cost less to produce as they would be digital, and students wouldn't have to spend as much money on them or carry them around. Professors wouldn't need to have physical copies of multiple books, either.

The work would also be interactive – instead of simply reading materials and copying homework into lined notebook paper to do, the book itself would be enabled to allow students to do the work directly on the tablet computer or laptop. They could also take notes and write marginalia in the book the same as an ordinary textbook allows. Students could focus on what they need to work on most.

"[The planned curriculum] allows students to create their own pathway for learning," said Julie Duclos-Greenwood, New Hanover's director of instructional services. "It allows them to personalize their own learning and learn at their own rate."

Pittsburg, Pennsylvania is also bringing school software into its educational programs, Education Week reported,

"Pittsburgh is absolutely a leader when it comes to building a learning ecosystem for the 21st century," said Constance M. Yowell, the director of education at the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which is supporting the city as it switches over to digital teaching tools.

Flipped classroom models
One way that schools are teaching their students using products like dental school software is with a flipped classroom model. In this approach, students watch a presentation online using their dental academic software, and then they do homework inside the school. Students in Texas at the Waskom Independent School District are learning this way, and they are spending more time with their teachers, getting more personalized help than a lecture would otherwise allow, according to the Marshall News Messenger.

Students at a dental school can use a flipped classroom to spend their evenings listening to a lecture, and then they can come to class ready to learn from a professor who will make himself or herself more available to questions. There will no longer be such a rush to finish a lecture at specific time points, leaving less room for questions.

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