Lilith Becher and Fabian Dirks are both medical students at Witten/Herdecke Universitat in Germany. Fabian is involved with the ICON virtual patient project that is run in conjunction with Harvard University, USA.
Here, Lilith and Fabian talk about e-learning in medical education, and Fabian’s involvement with ICON. Please note that these videos are in German. English summaries are provided beneath the videos.
Lilith: Fabian, you took part in the pilot project with ICON, can you tell us a bit about this project?
Fabian: Yes, ICON is an e-learning project run in cooperation with Harvard Medical School. Medical students from Harvard visited Witten/Herdecke University to work together with Witten students on a case, partially worked on as a team and partially with e-learning tool icon. This interactive case-based online network was done with support of the medical tutors.
Lilith: How did it work? In the ICON system you work on a fictitious patient, but you also had to work together as a team, which is different to other e-learning modules.
Fabian: I really liked that, the interactivitiy and information provided by the network, for example the information provided by experts with commentary. It was a more flexible way of using interactive tools.
Lilith: What was your experience working in an intercultural group? Do you think it works for e-learning, and could it work with other cases? Or did you have the feeling that communication between Witten and Harvard students was fundamentally different?
Fabian: Communication via the ICON platform was almost easier than in person, especially because of language barriers that were apparent in person but not when using the platform. Of course one has to get familiar with the platform at first, and that takes time.
Lilith: A lot of teaching taking place at the unviersity is being transferred to the Internet. I already feel that as a student I spend enough time alone at my desk. Don’t you have the feeling that with the strengthening of e-learning, the personal aspect of teaching is getting lost?
Fabian: I believe that e-learning can only be an addition to normal teaching. A balance has to be found between the two.
Lilith: How many hours per week did you spend on the ICON case?
Fabian: Well, it was only meant to be worked on for one week. There was a high workload, with twice the number of students than normal working on a case.
Lilith: If there was a course to be offered that including e-learning during one semester, how much e-learning time could be expected? Say two to three hours per week?
Fabian: It depends on what the additional work load would be. I think two or three hours a week is okay, depending on what other tasks there are. E-learning components shouldn’t be more than half of the entire course offered.
Lilith: There are differences between personal preferences for digital media. Does there have to be a special interest, or advantage for using e-learning, i.e. co-operation with Harvard students, or do you think there is a place for e-learing without special perks
Fabian: The intercultural aspect was very interesting, but I would accept and use e-learning as a normal integral part of studies as addition. Especially if a case was to provide immediate feedback.