Adapting Educational Strategy For the 2020-21 School Year Because of COVID-19

Responses by Tao Le, MD, MHS, series editor of the First Aid book series and CEO of ScholarRx.

How might education change in terms of teaching strategy as a result of the coronavirus?

Most schools already had lecture-recording capabilities where many students were watching the talks online, and we expect a lot of this to continue even after the pandemic subsides. We’ve also seen a huge interest in pre-built curriculum systems like our ScholarRx Bricks which has more than doubled in usage since the pandemic started. The primary strategy here is to use them as part of a “flipped classroom” where curated pre-work is assigned before a live session where the instructor works with the students to apply what they’ve learned.

With regards to specific teaching activities:

How might school education change in terms of virtual learning?

There will be more virtual learning, particularly in the non-clinical phases of training, as has been seen at undergraduate universities. This group of students has grown up with video and multimedia, so it is not a limitation per se. However, many faculty don’t have adequate experience in developing instructionally sound online learning experiences. This is where schools and individual instructors may look to curricular platforms like ScholarRx, which are designed from the ground up for digital learning.

Will student requirements to graduate/take board exams change?

Students will still need to pass two computerized board exams to graduate and a third to become licensed by the local state medical board. The national boards did suspend a clinical exam for 12 to 18 months because it required direct interaction with standardized patient actors and travel to a very limited number of testing sites. Therefore, students won’t need it for graduation, but will still need it for later licensure.

Do you anticipate the types of courses for students to change?

Given that COVID-19 has become the medical event of our lifetime, we have already seen more schools offer coursework in infectious disease, pandemics, public health, and disaster preparedness. Students are also getting more training on how to interview and communicate with patients digitally as telemedicine rapidly becomes a new normal in healthcare.

What else might change in medical school education that isn’t on this list that should be included?

We think that the pandemic has exposed a major flaw in the medical education system where individual schools often create and maintain a custom but commonly taught curriculum despite having limited resources. Instead of reinventing the wheel, schools can use off the shelf curricular resources for commonly accepted core competencies and allow the faculty to focus on high-value teaching activities.

Conversely, we also believe that there is an opportunity for schools to develop curriculum in their areas of expertise and distribute it to others as part of a shared curricular ecosystem and, therefore, lowering the cost and increasing the accessibility of education for all, especially in underserved regions of the world.

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