AMEE 2009: Reports from the Short Communication Sessions: e-Learning and undergraduate education

In a lively series of presentations in the Short Communication Sessions on Monday 31st August, 2009, ideas and issues surrounding new technologies in e-learning were discussed at length.

1One of the hot topics of the session was the use of Web 2.0 technologies to aid learning, including social networking tools, wikis, and other e-learning communication tools such as Moodle.

Replacing lectures with web-based learning

Firstly Robert M Klein from the University of Kansas, School of Medicine, Kansas, US, described their integrated electronic medical curriculum. This included a tablet PC that is central to the curriculum, giving the students improved access to materials, and allowing for self-directed learning and increased student collaboration. This system was implemented in 2006 and since then the department have reduced lectures by 40%, replacing them with web-based learning and small group sessions.

Can the students lead the teachers with e-Learning?

Nick Short from the Royal Veterinary College in London then described how his department was working to bridge the gap between student’s expectations of online learning and the teacher’s level of understanding of this technology. As he explained: “We need to engage students in e-learning resources. How do stakeholders use the technology? How do we teach the teachers?”

With this project, student focus groups were involved in various projects, including the development of WikiVet. In the spirit of Web 2.0 we were introduced to some of the students using Skype, where we heard first hand their experiences.

One of the student participants said: “I can use my own experience and opinions to influence the resources so that they deliver what students want, rather than what tutors think they want – which isn’t necessarily the same thing!”

Using Wikis in medical education

Martin Vejrazka from Charles University in Prague outlined the shift in his university towards more “interactive, learning-centred models”, using WikiLectures as an example.

This is more of an Internet-based textbook, rather than like the ‘WikiPedia’ model. As Vejrazka said: “It is an easy dissemination tool, and is also cost-effective. It is also reliable because any mistakes are easily corrected.”

When challenged on whether students would lose interest in updating the WikiLectures once it became fully comprehensive, he said: “I’m not afraid of losing student interest because there is so much new material. The lectures will be updated forever.”

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