LETTER TO THE EDITOR
COVID-19 and distance learning in Dentistry
COVID-19 y educación a distancia en Estomatología
José Osvaldo Enríquez
Jorge Otero Martínez1 http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6250-3534
1 Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Faculty of Dentistry. Villa Clara. Cuba.
* Author for correspondence. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To the editor:
Higher medical education aimed at training oral health professionals has been particularly affected by the pandemic that is hitting the world today. In Cuba their training processes have not stopped, but they have been subject to various adjustments. The undergraduate teaching-learning process has appealed, among other alternatives, to the possibilities offered by the already established "distance learning", which is based on the so-called disruptive or information and communication technologies (ICT).(1,2,3)
The objective of this letter is to reflect on the possible use of distance learning in undergraduate courses that contribute to the training of dentistry professionals in Villa Clara, under the influence of COVID-19, assuming it not only as adversity but as an opportunity.
If the analysis takes into account the non-personal components of the teaching-learning process analyzed in the normative and curricular documents, there are subjects that, due to their objectives to be achieved and the characteristics of the content they include, could be taught regardless of face-to-face teaching activities, or only with some of them. Comparative studies between virtual and face-to-face teaching of basic science subjects in Medicine and Dentistry students show that learning in virtual environments reflects better results.(4)
It would be difficult to replicate this practice in clinical subjects,(1,2) whose objectives presuppose direct contact with patients and their families and members of the health team, as well as with existing aids only in health institutions, because Its teaching content includes skills, habits and values that are predominantly oriented towards the formation of professional competencies, which could not be fully achieved through distance learning.
There are countries where strategies such as videoconferencing, clinical case discussions or initial contact with patients through telemedicine are common in undergraduate studies.(3) Some universities have long used mannequins as simulators and the application of virtual reality systems, in an immersive and interactive three-dimensional environment, where students perform routine physical examination and practice interventions from a booth with specialized hardware and software, while being remotely monitored by teachers.(5)
Although it is true that currently there is no financial situation that allows the country to invest in the aforementioned technologies, it has the main thing to supply them: human capital and its innovative reserves. It is imposed, with the support of the virtual platforms available as an aid, and without trying to dispense with face-to-face as a form, to progressively incorporate teaching methods based on previous study, also known as inductive classroom.(6,7)
Here it´s an edge of this reflection that allows us to assume COVID-19 as an opportunity. Yes, it has been an opportunity to discover and develop the potentialities of the non-face-to-face teaching-learning process in Dentistry, within Cuban medical education, especially those related to the possibilities of the virtual manner, all of which favors students to play a more proactive role. Doors have also been opened to increase professional collaboration in research projects, which is valid in education since this is essentially a social phenomenon.
Note that this analysis has already turned to the personal components of the process: students and teachers. If it focuses specifically on their preparation to use ICT, it could be considered that all of the former currently exhibit a satisfactory level; but this is not the case with the teaching staff because most of its members do not classify,(8) as "digital natives" according to Prensky and have not experienced the need to improve themselves in this direction, they have not had the opportunity, or they have not demanded themselves to do so.
In this sense, it is the responsibility of the institution to guarantee the preparation of teachers with a view to achieving a gradual transition towards teaching supported by digital platforms, through methodological work or professional improvement. This should not be assumed as a temporary response to the situation faced, but as a guideline in terms of satisfying one of the quality indicators that academic excellence requires.
In summary, distance education for the degrees that oral health professionals train in the province faces the same challenges that other authors have described.(1,2) Without forgetting the technological or infrastructure limitations -which are still perceived- to provide quality connectivity to all students in the places where they live, assuming that each of them has a mobile device or terminal equipment.
Finally, if the aspects addressed above behave favorably, could ICT totally replace face-to-face in the undergraduate teaching-learning process? These authors consider that it´s not possible. In the first place, it would not be consistent with the application of the pedagogical model at its core to the in-service training. Second, didactics teaches us that ICT in this process are only teaching-learning aids and that the face-to-face figure of the teacher is irreplaceable. However, the feasibility of using the distance learning modality in the training of oral health professionals should be the subject of future research.
There is already comment on the post-COVID-19 stage; we are in a so-called "new normal life" to emphasize that nothing will be as before. In other words, changes occur in all spheres of life, including university life, where those supported by science must be introduced, since it is known that mistakes made in the training of human resources have serious long-term consequences.
1. Enoki-Miñano ER. El aprendizaje a distancia en odontología como una alternativa de la universidad ante la COVID-19. Rev Cubana Estomatol [Internet]. 2020 [citado 28/07/2020];57(3):[aprox. 4 p.]. Disponible en: http://www.revestomatologia.sld.cu/index.php/est/article/view/3308/1843
2. Cayo Rojas CF, Agramonte Rosell RD. Desafíos de la educación virtual en Odontología en tiempos de pandemia COVID-19. Rev Cubana Estomatol [Internet]. 2020 [citado 28/07/2020];57(3):[aprox. 4 p.]. Disponible en: http://www.revestomatologia.sld.cu/index.php/est/article/view/3341/1844
3. Almarzooq Z, Lopes M, Kochar A. Virtual Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Disruptive Technology in Graduate Medical Education. J Am Coll Cardiol [Internet]. 2020 [citado 28/07/2020];75(20):[aprox. 3 p.]. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32304797/
4. Golchaia B, Nazaria N, Hassania F, HadiM. Computer-based E-teaching (Virtual Medical Teaching) or traditional teaching: A comparison between Medical and Dentistry students. Procedia -Social and Behavioral Sciences [Internet]. 2012 [citado 09/06/2020]:47:[aprox. 3 p.]. Disponible en: https://cyberleninka.org/article/n/551419
5. Pottle J. Virtual reality and the transformation of medical education. J Future Health Care [Internet]. 2019 [citado 18/01/2020];6(3):[aprox. 4 p.]. Disponible en: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6798020/
6. Prieto Martín A. Flipped Learning: aplicar el modelo de aprendizaje inverso. Madrid: Narcea S. A; 2017.
7. De la Torre RM, Rojas MN, Bilbao CM, Torres MI, Barroso ML. Curso en red: "Enseñanza virtual en la docencia médica". EDUMECENTRO [Internet]. 2016 [citado 18/07/2020];8(1):[aprox. 12 p]. Disponible en: http://www.revedumecentro.sld.cu/index.php/edumc/article/view/416/html_96
8. Mompeó-Corredera B. Metodologías y materiales para el aprendizaje de la anatomía humana: percepciones de los estudiantes de medicina `nativos digitales'. Rev de la Fundación Educación Médica [Internet]. 2014 [citado 18/01/2020];17(2):[aprox. 5 p.]. Disponible en: https://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2014-98322014000200007
Declaration of interests
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
José Osvaldo Enríquez Clavero: conceptualization, methodology and preparation of
José Osvaldo Enríquez Clavero and Jorge Otero Martínez: review of the manuscript, editing and approval of the final version of the article.
This article has been published under the Creative Commons license.