The Covid 19 pandemic has heavily influenced the life and organization of universities in all areas, from teaching to research to the working life of all its staff . For Universities with Medical School, the impact was even more significant due to the stress to which the hospital structures subjected to practical teaching and internship activities for future doctors and specialists were subjected.
In a couple of weeks at the beginning of March, the closure of the universities required the transformation of the totality of the courses and lessons in remote mode – defined as emergency remote teaching – with a great organizational effort for a system certainly not prepared for such a vast and sudden transition, also for a digital culture not uniformly spread in the teaching class, but nevertheless allowing the vast majority of our students to continue to receive adequate and continuous training.
The digitization of teaching activities (from simulation to different forms of scientific communication) will now be the key word that will allow us to face the beginning of the next academic year with more confidence.. And since the great opportunities also arise from the moments of greatest crisis, we must take advantage of these IT potentials to better prepare the beginning of the next academic year.
In fact, given the persistent need for social distancing and the difficulties in moving, especially for international students who are and could still be at home, distance learning or a mixed or blended version of it will continue to play an important role. This means that the traditional form will also be resumed as soon as possible in the presence, albeit in percentage terms, which is fundamental for the teaching of life sciences. The experience of these months has taught us that remote teaching cannot consist in the simple online transmission of the lesson in the presence of one’s own, instead of some telematic methods. In fact, for this new phase it is necessary to refine the teaching techniques to obtain a good level of interaction with the students while keeping their attention alive, a goal certainly more difficult without direct contact and the empathic and gestural ability of the classroom: but the tools to do this are already available in the online platforms in use and must certainly be fully used (small interactive groups, assignment of preventive tasks, interleaved quizzes). The figure of an educational manager will become increasingly central to the digital literacy of our teachers. And to improve teaching effectiveness, it will be very important to have student assessments of these first months of experience, when the transition took place with such rapid times and modalities. In our university, the answers to a first questionnaire helped us a lot to increase the students’ satisfaction and to engage them positively.
The choice of distance learning also involves tackling the problem of the digital divide, that is, the availability and quality of digital media and connection networks that are still not homogeneous in the country and made more evident by the emergency . Specific maneuvers and aid have been planned by the government and will hopefully be made available quickly. And while waiting for the teaching pressures to decrease in teaching hospitals and to be able to safely welcome students back for the practical training, what can we do? A great opportunity is offered by simulated teaching, that is, the complex of digital techniques and technologies that allow us to carry out and learn in a protected environment all the maneuvers (or skills) practices necessary for the medical future.
The simulated activities are becoming more and more stable in the training of the doctor: thanks to mannequins and technologies, students, specialists and professionals can practice safely. As for pilots, simulation is a very useful tool: there are maneuvers that can only be learned by repeating them many times and, especially at a time when it is essential to guarantee social distancing, simulators allow you to learn and improve yourself in total safety. Not to mention that with the maneuvers or the techniques in this way they can be learned in a standardized form, guaranteeing the learners adequate and effective training in being ready to face any emergency anywhere in the world. We also have the possibility to monitor learning skills with scientific findings and to give feedback, going to correct or integrate the exercises.
A form of teaching to be enhanced especially for doctors in specialist training: in Humanitas University it is possible to access in small groups to a specific simulation center, the CUBE, open every day 24 hours a day, in order to allow students a greater freedom of attendance compatible with their working hours which in recent months have been very demanding. Postgraduates who have demonstrated all their availability and vocation to work in this emergency by assisting healthcare personnel even in the areas most affected by the pandemic. An important challenge that will engage all of us with the awareness of being able to manage a new scenario that is destined to last over time.
May 4, 22:00 – change on May 4, 2020 | 22:01
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