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E-learning: How Important it is for the Medical Schools?

Submitted by on June 27, 2012 – 9:02 AM 3 Comments

Technological and social drifts taking place in recent years are influencing the ways of presenting and transferring knowledge from one generation to the other. Today, Continuous Medical Education (CME) is an essential component, because the life of information and skills turning over in medicine is shorter than ever before. That imposes an increasing pressure on doctors to remain at the vanguard of medical education throughout their career. In order to overcome this dearth of time available to medical students, “Electronic Learning” or “e-learning” has emerged as a new paradigm of modern education.

E-learning comprises all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching. The information and communication systems, whether networked or not, serve as specific media to implement the learning process. Worldwide, the e-learning market has a growth rate of 35.6%, but failures do exist.

One of the troubles with e-learning is that students have to deal with it by themselves without getting any feedbacks or help from potential teachers or senior colleagues. Interpersonal communications cannot be ignored by building virtual study rooms, because it is a vital aspect in the training of future doctors; and that is the reason why only a combinative model of learning could be beneficial. This blended manner of learning refers to a situation that is an assortment of electronic plus face-to-face schooling. This approach would allow using e-learning (interactive multimedia presentations, online video transmission and simulations) along with helpful components of conventional education.

E-learning can be very helpful in providing physicians with access to the latest medical updates. It also offers an interactive model of guidance, which stimulates the acquisition of knowledge. Another benefit of e-learning is that it provides flexibility in both point and position, by presenting online medical curriculum. There may be a possible collaboration between mentors and students from different parts of the world, which allows vigorous experiences of information interchanges.

Implementation of e-learning in educating medicine is needed to provide students with new avenues to learning. However, steps must be taken to chalk a solution which is better for the given region particularly a growing medical education system such as that of Pakistan and other nations developing in the same field.

Learning is the exchange of information between two discussing sides. Over periods of time, countless modalities and theories have been explicated about learning with varying levels of efficacy. With the growing popularity of computers among teachers and students alike and the development of advanced web-based tools, education is progressively getting high-tech. Like previous methods of teaching, computer-based learning has its own benefits and pitfalls. The objective of this perspective is to highlight some aspects of e-Learning as it influences medical education at under-graduate level.

Traditionally, medical education had a blend of didactic training in the classroom and integrated, practical “Socratic Method” learning in the clinics. Lately, there has been an increased use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in an effort to link basic science knowledge with clinical decision making and further teaching of vital decision making abilities to future physicians. Problem-based learning utilizes the principle that the use of passive knowledge provides the foundation of learning active and significant clinical judgments that are made in health settings on routine basis. PBL is not the only modality for instruction and nearly seems impossible to get rid of conventional lectures for the transfer of information or the Socratic Method to develop critical thinking skills in students.

Medical education, especially in its advanced stage, has many distinctive challenges such as chronological and geographic allocation of students, teachers, and any other being involved. Additional complications result from irregular schedules that are present in most fields of medicine leading to ill-attended or abandoned lectures.

Efficient transmission of knowledge is of absolute significance for the continuation and progression of our health care system. In any principle, efficient delivery of information consists not only of a transfer of facts about the subject but also an exposure to tools necessary to make vital decisions using the available knowledge. Conventional lectures deliver the factual knowledge; however one can doubt both the usefulness as well as efficiency of this approach.

E-learning provides many facets to the educational development and if utilized to the fullest, has the potential to improve the educational experience of both, learners and teachers. One of the problems with conventional lectures is that they often target a particular learning style of the students involved and present the information in a specific manner. The time and assets required to convey the information is large and may not fully meet the requirements of the participants. On the other hand, e-learning allows students to access lectures and other materials when they are most attentive, so the learning can be a higher yield. In addition, students are provided the opportunity to access the information to the extent as felt necessary. It is my optimism that this article touches the face of the existing web tools available for use in the field of education. Many of these tools are unambiguous and can be incorporated well into both under-grad and post-grad medical educational systems.

By the progress in the internet-based educational platforms that are also user-friendly, under-graduate education is starting to clinch a new modality of information exchange. Web-based/multimedia learning platforms bring abundant potential that are not met with customary lectures; however, studies looking at e-learning as a substitute for traditional classroom education have not revealed a considerable improvement. Even without a clear manifestation that e-learning is better than conventional lectures; online education provides solutions that can overcome many problems specific with traditional learning, especially in the field of medicine. Presently, we are in an attempt to enjoy the effectiveness of internet for deliverance and execution of under-graduate medical education.

With increasing restrictions in the front of medical instructors, one needs to discover other paths for efficient transfer of information to trainees in the health care system. The frequent use of technology, specifically internet-based tools, unlocks the doors for collaboration among both students and teachers.

The use of multimedia, together with the evaluation of efficiency, guides to a platform that continues to progress in both competence and effectiveness. While a basic science research is being conducted in the Arctic, its tentative outcome can be accessed at the same time in the Pacific electronically. Medical science search engines like PubMed and Medline provide undergraduate medical students, an entire globe of equal opportunity to access, benefit and bring into practice the most recent advances in the basic sciences and the clinical guidelines. Cochrane review is yet another thesaurus of advanced and most recent medical knowledge.

This method combined with many other aspects of web-based learning put forward in this article are easy-to-use, yet effective enough to bear a completely developed curriculum and to incorporate within the scientific teaching structure of under-graduate medical education. With an increase in both, popularity and effectiveness, e-learning seems to be the future of medical education and countries like Pakistan should take steps to transform their educational systems to ensure better output in terms of the quality of its health care professionals.


About the author: Muhammad Abbas Abid, is a final-year medical student from Sindh Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan.  He has been an active researcher at his medical school. His research experience includes various oral and poster research presentations and a fully funded basic science research internship at the Texas Tech University, TX, USA in 2009. He can be reached at [email protected]

About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2012 for the theme: Medical Education. To learn more about the contest and to participate in it, follow this link:

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  • Haris Riaz

    This publication has officially initiated the writing contest, many more to follow!

  • Fatima

    yess i agree

  • Syed Abdul Hannan

    sounds interesting