e-Learning: A Student’s Perspective

Students at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany are involved in the ICON project that is run in conjunction with Harvard University. Here students in the US and Germany use forum-based virtual patients to help develop their clinical decision-making skills.

Here, Daniel Tolks who is co-ordinating the German side of the ICON project talks to medical student Ole Jung about his experiences with e-learning.

[Please note – the video is in German. Please scroll down for the English translation]

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Daniel: Hi, my name is Daniel Tolks

Ole: My name is Ole Jung

Daniel: I am working at the institute for teaching in health sciences at the university Witten/Herdecke(Martin Fischer) and we did an exchange project this summer with the Harvard University which was about Virtual patients  (ICON).  I’m here with Ole Jung who took this course over the summer.

Ole: Yes, my name is Ole Jung and I am a medical student.

Daniel: Please tell me about how you came to the project?

Ole: E-mail. Harvard was the call sign. Working together with students from Harvard was very interesting and it was new.

Daniel: Have you had any experiences with e-learning?

Ole: No, not at all. I heard that for example, a lecturer in Munich is talking via internet to students in Witten. But nothing else.

Daniel: Okay, tell me about your experiences concerning the work amount and if there was any additional benefit. Is it useful to implement e-learning on a long term?

Ole: I think it is useful and reasonable. In the beginning it was very difficult and exhausting, nobody knew exactly how all this will work. We had some coordination problems. But then it got better. You have to adjust to the new way of learning.

But we felt that the face-to-face meeting once a week are very important and most useful. Only e-learning is not recommended. Meetings are also very important.

Daniel: Do you think that the e-learning is not that important compared to face-to-face meetings?

Ole: No, not necessarily. But it is good to talk about personal problems and questions. Discussing topics is a totally different experience to writing. E-learning with video conference would be better and more useful in my opinion.

Daniel: Would you say that the learning process changed due to the use of e-learning? Maybe in comparison to PBL?

Ole: First of all we worked on different topics than we normally would. Mostly a cure was not possible. It was a more scientific approach. But in sum the effect of PBL is to go to the university and then work at home. If you go to a lecture or watch a lecture filmed and broadcasted via the Internet, there is no difference. You normally work on your own.

Daniel: We had two phases of the project. In the first phase the Witten and Harvard students  worked on a case on their own, and in the second case you worked together with the students from Harvard. Have you noticed a big change in the learning process?

Ole:  The mentality is different. The American students were more determined and single-minded and took it in their stride. This could be because they all wanted to go to Harvard. The mentality to achieve something is very different. Although it was requested that they were not willing to work in a group, we instead wanted to work in a group and meet each other.

Daniel: Okay, last question: Do you think that it is useful to extend the e-learning?

Ole: Of course! But with some improvements. For example, the use of video conferences would be good, e.g. e-Learning with lectures (podcasts).

Daniel: Thank you very much for this interview.

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