Design, Implementation and Evaluation of a Distance Learning Framework to Expedite Medical Education during COVID-19 pandemic: A Proof-of-Concept Study
Azar, Aida J
Khamis, Amar Hassan
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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced medical schools to suspend on-campus live-sessions and shift to distance-learning (DL). This precipitous shift presented medical educators with a challenge, ‘to create a “simulacrum” of the learning environment that students experience in classroom, in DL’. This requires the design of an adaptable and versatile DL-framework bearing in mind the theoretical underpinnings associated with DL. Additionally, effectiveness of such a DL-framework in content-delivery followed by its evaluation at the userlevel, and in cognitive development needs to be pursued such that medical educators can be convinced to effectively adopt the framework in a competency-based medical programme. Main: In this study, we define a DL-framework that provides a ‘simulacrum’ of classroom experience. The framework’s blueprint was designed amalgamating principles of: Garrison’s community inquiry, Siemens’ connectivism and Harasim’s online-collaborative-learning; and improved using Anderson’s DL-model. Effectiveness of the DL-framework in course delivery was demonstrated using the exemplar of fundamentals in epidemiology and biostatistics (FEB) course during COVID-19 lockdown. Virtual live-sessions integrated in the framework employed a blendedapproach informed by instructional-design strategies of Gagne and Peyton. The efficiency of the framework was evaluated using first 2 levels of Kirkpatrick’s framework. Of 60 students, 51 (85%) responded to the survey assessing perception towards DL (Kirkpatrick’s Level 1). The survey-items, validated using exploratory factor analysis, were classified into 4-categories: computer expertise; DL-flexibility; DL-usefulness; and DL-satisfaction. The overall perception for the 4 categories, highlighted respondents’ overall satisfaction with the framework. Scores for specific survey-items attested that the framework promoted collaborative-learning and student-autonomy. For, Kirkpatrick’s Level 2 that is, cognitive-development, performance in FEB’s summative-assessment of students experiencing DL was compared with students taught using traditional methods. Similar, mean-scores for both groups indicated that shift to DL didn’t have an adverse effect on students’ learning. Conclusion: In conclusion, we present here the design, implementation and evaluation of a DL-framework, which is an efficient pedagogical approach, pertinent for medical schools to adopt (elaborated using Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice) to address students’ learning trajectories during unprecedented times such as that during the COVID-19 pandemia.
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