Online Learning in Dentistry – Is it beneficial ?
Novel Corona Virus pandemic has led to many novel changes across the globe in every single way. Amidst the rise of pandemic, every sector has made its own way to keep themselves and the fraternity engaged in their field of work using social media. Online meetings, webinars, courses etc has become the new normal. Coming to the online dental education, it comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
3 Important Pre- requisites for Online Dental Education
- Electronic devices like Smartphone, Laptop/ Computer, Headset/ earphones
- Sound knowledge on using web based platforms and electronic devices
- Uninterrupted internet connection
Advantages of Online Dental Education
- Global Connect: Social media platforms have definitely helped the dentists across the globe to get to know each other and exchange their knowledge through online dental education.
- Exchange of ideas and resources: The cases treated in different parts of the world in their clinical/hospital setup are being discussed due to initiative of online dental webinars and exchange of knowledge is always welcome and beneficial for future when such cases arise. Wide range of resource material can be availed from any part of the world.
- Variety and creative teaching: Dental fraternity irrespective of students or practitioners, all are benefited through wide range of online talks. Various subjects, concepts and diverse topics help for knowledge building.
- Level Playing Field: In the online environment, learners have a certain measure of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race and gender are largely absent. Instead, the focus of attention is clearly on the content of the discussion.
- Blend of old and newer generation: The youngsters i.e. budding dentists are benefited by talks of stalwarts of dentistry. Especially, in times like pandemic it is definitely helpful to get through online dental education.
- Build strong base in theory: Instead sitting idle, dentists can sharpen their theoretical knowledge by online dental education.
- Preparedness: In view of Covid-19 pandemic, online dental education has helped dentists to be prepared to start practicing after lock down ends. Protocols on air purification, sterilization and disinfection, patient and staff safety, Personal protective equipment were the main topics discussed by various experts. Online dental education has helped dentists to get prepared to face the patients amidst the pandemic.
Disadvantages of Online Dental Education
- Equity and Accessibility to Technology: Lack of access whether it be for economical or logistics reasons will exclude otherwise eligible students from the course. This is a significant issue in rural and lower socioeconomic groups.
- Lack of essential knowledge on handling online environment: Both students and facilitators must possess a minimum level of computer knowledge in order to function successfully in an online environment.
- Lack of physical presence: An online instructor must be able to compensate for lack of physical presence by creating a supportive environment in the Virtual Classroom. All students must feel comfortable participating in the session. Failure to do this can alienate the audience both from each other and from the instructor.
- Practical use: The theoretically learnt concepts if not applied practically, it’s of less use.
- Need of hands- on learning: Dentistry is solely based on the skill of the dentist. Dentists learn from working on patients. Theoretically being sound is important to carry out any procedure. But, applying the knowledge practically when situation arises is where the actual challenge arise.
- Theory is just half the required knowledge: The budding dentists are not exposed to much clinical cases hence many of the clinical cases explained by the leading dentists may not be fully understandable. Half knowledge is always dangerous.
- Paid webinars: One may feel it less worth to pay for a lecture without hands-on practical training.
- Numerous options, dilemma in choosing the right one: Lot of organizations, colleges, companies are conducting online dental courses. As a result, several webinars are being scheduled each day. Choosing the right one might pose a dilemma. This definitely a food for thought.
- Long hours in front of computers or smartphones: Sitting for long hours might lead to body strain, especially the eyes.
Like two faces of the coin, everything comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. It is left on the individual to decide what benefits and to select wisely. In order for an online dental education programme to be successful, the content, the facilitator, the technology and the students or participants must be carefully considered and balanced in order to take full advantage of the strengths of this format and at the same time, avoid pitfalls that could result from its weaknesses. Importantly, at the current time of crisis, we need to pave our way and find ways to enhance knowledge and not remain stagnant. Let’s hope for better days soon and for time being, let’s all stay safe.