Education has been evolving with the times and with technology for as long as it has existed, in both a formal and informal sense. Classrooms around the world and at all levels of education, from preschool through PhD, have adapted from writing tablets and chalk all the way to the digital tablets we know today. The amount of information and how students learn this information has evolved over the years, and how educators must prepare and share content has changed exponentially. Most changes in the world of academia happen overnight, but right now we’re experiencing a paradigm shift in educational philosophies and what roles the internet and self-driven learning really can play for students of all ages.
The COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest in a long list of catalysts for educational change – now, we’re moving from already digitally-friendly education to digital-first education, more out of necessity than anything else. But as many students and educators are discovering, innovation is in fact the child of necessity, and from this required innovation comes solutions that will likely (and in many, hopefully!) last much longer than the current global pandemic. Unlike catalysts of the past, such as a rise in personal computer use or even the invention and ubiquity of paper, the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an immediate need for rapid change.
Luckily, the tools we’ve come to rely on in the last few months – online video chats, digital quizzes, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), and so much more – already exist. The difference is that now, these resources are formally utilized and accepted by institutions that may have previously scoffed at alternative teaching and learning resources.
Though education in all fields has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, perhaps one of the most relevant fields is that of medical education. Medical schools worldwide are (at least partially) embracing this digital shift and the phrase “the new normal” is fairly widespread in discourse within the industry. With this new normal comes numerous adaptations that include both improvements to medical education (among others, virtual patient encounters and other simulations) and drawbacks (among others, a significant lapse in direct patient-training via in-hospital internships and shadowing). Many institutions are producing COVID-19-focused resources or even entire academic courses on the disease, such as Harvard’s, which has been shared and adopted globally.
Also, more and more educational commercial companies will emerge like Midwalley, Impact Theory University or Lecturio (helps with USMLE preparation).
We know what education looks like right now, but how will it look in the future? The necessity for in-person training is still very much alive in certain fields (for example, medicine, engineering), whereas in others, distance learning is a more viable option and could come to be a medium of choice. However, having the option or the implementation of digital-friendly learning tools allows for far more choice when it comes to teaching and learning styles. Whereas a professor may have previously not considered a flipped classroom approach, with existing teaching resources, he or she can ensure teaching continuity and actually improve teaching and learning results when more class time is available to answer student questions or to dive deeper into the subject at hand. For students, the future is full of resources and opportunities to learn at their own pace, to learn in their own styles, and to find curricula and programs that are more adaptable to their schedules and/or are more affordable, both financially and with regards to time expenditure.
Perhaps none of our latest educational innovations and initiatives will hold up in the post-COVID era… but the chances of this are very slim. The only thing we can say with certainty is that education will continue to evolve and we as learners and educators will definitely learn to adapt.
Spending time at home – especially in quarantine – can be draining. At this point in time, you’ve likely already been home for a while. Perhaps at the beginning, it was nice to feel the social pressure of meeting up friends and colleagues be lifted from your shoulders; but now, you may be really missing some of these everyday social interactions. The Coronavirus SARS-CoV 2 isn’t going away anytime soon – so the start of a new semester is the perfect time to take stock of your situation again, with specific focus on how you’re managing your mental health, especially while you’re studying.
Regardless of the exact career path you choose, there are so many ways to work in health care, and so many ways to have a positive impact on global health. Training for any healthcare-related job takes time, so making sure to spend time figuring out the area of medicine that sparks the most passion and joy for you is well worth it. All jobs in medicine are essential.
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