TAIPEI, Taiwan: SARS-CoV-2 has forced dental schools to be innovative. Three online symposia were held earlier this year to analyze the strategies that had been adopted to keep classes going during the first wave of the pandemic. A qualitative study of the symposia found that better online tools were needed, but that digital education platforms had created new opportunities for regional collaboration.
The symposia were co-organized by the Association for Dental Education, Asia Pacific (ADEAP) and the Chinese Taipei Association for Dental Sciences. They took place virtually on March 30, April 15 and June 10 and brought together dental education representatives from Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. The respective themes of the three events were the influence of the pandemic on dentistry; strategies for continuing clinical training during the pandemic; and the challenges that dental education, research and clinical activities may face in a post-pandemic environment.
Researchers from universities in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and Italy analyzed the online lectures and discussions and found that dental education in the countries represented was significantly disrupted between March 30 and June 10. This finding echoes a recent report by Dental Tribune International (DTI), which found that dental students around the world worried about the lack of clinical skills.
The researchers divided dental education into three categories: lectures and problem-based learning (PBL); simulation lab course; and clinical training. It was found that PBL classes only continued in Taiwan – dental schools in Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States were held online . Laboratory simulation classes had been held in Taiwan, in small groups at dental schools in Japan and by video demonstration in Cambodia, but had not taken place at other dental schools. Clinical practice courses and research initiatives had only taken place in Taiwan and in limited capacity in Japan.
Dental schools in Taiwan experienced a two-week delay in their programs; however, dental educators in the country have otherwise reported little disruption. Private dental clinics remained open in Taiwan during the study period, while they were closed in most of the other countries represented.
COVID-19 Sends Online Dental Training
The researchers noted that a variety of virtual platforms had been used by dental schools for their online PBL courses and that students and faculty had had to adapt. Students were found to adjust to change faster than senior managers, but the researchers suggested this generational gap may be minimized in the future due to the pandemic.
Some dental schools in the United States had used the LockDown browser to prevent students from using online search engines during exams, and the researchers noted that a dedicated online dental education platform should be developed in the future. They also said the development of an easy-to-use virtual reality haptic device was needed so that hands-on training could continue when it was not possible to hold simulation lab classes.
“It remains controversial whether online courses can replace offline ones”
Dr Allen Ming-Lun Hsu, president of ADEAP and distinguished professor at the School of Dentistry, National Yang-Ming University of Taiwan, told DTI that sharing experiences through online symposia had provided a better understanding of the effects of the pandemic. on dental education. He said: “At the very beginning, due to the lockdown and social distancing, dental educators were concerned about continuing dental education. Through the symposia, they learned new ideas from each other and shared information that helped them continue to improve dental education during the pandemic. “
Hsu said the pandemic has had a severe impact on classes that require close physical contact. “Many dental schools have opted for online or hybrid formats in order to further the learning progress of dental students. However, it remains controversial whether online courses can replace offline ones, ”he added.
ADEAP sponsored a new survey of dental students in Asia-Pacific. The survey will seek to better understand the effectiveness of e-learning tools and work on the formulation of new approaches to dental education in the region.
“Crises can also create opportunities, ”Hsu said. “Where the PBL courses have been put online, these courses can be disseminated to as many students as possible. Many dental schools are short of teaching staff, but if the online courses can be shared between different dental schools in different countries, not only can we solve teacher shortages, but we can also determine the main courses for basic skills. dental students. in different countries in order to reach consensus on these core competencies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The study, entitled “Innovation in dental education during the COVID-19 pandemic», Was published on August 19, 2020 online in the Journal of Dental Sciences, before inclusion in an issue.