M.I. Dascalu, A. Moldoveanu, G. Dragoi, O. Balan

University Politehnica of Bucharest (ROMANIA)
Considering a report of The Commission on education of health Professionals for the 21st Century, there are severe gaps between the professional education of medical staff and the challenges they have to face, in order to meet the patients needs. Among main problems identified by the Commission there are: mismatch between the development of core and specific competencies, the ability to transfer them in clinical settings and poor teamwork. One of the hardest tasks of medical students is the quantity of information they have to retain, to be able to support correct clinical reasoning. Other problem they have to overcome is the access to quality information, as information correctness and updating is more critical in medicine than in other areas. On the other hand, medical educators are usually first of all doctors, thus their time budget for preparing educational materials is highly constrained. Given the issues both students and educators have to deal with, technology-based tools might be a solution to reach the goals of medical education.

The current paper presents a state of the art of medical e-learning, highlighting the main features of existent applications, the technologies used to develop them, as well as the challenges they had to overcome in order to maximize the value of educational activities. Although e-learning is a well-known practice of enhancing education, the research question here is whether it is fully adapted and exploited in the medical field. Based on the pros and cons of each analyzed tool, a new model to leverage medical e-learning is proposed.

As a trend, most applications in medical e-learning target a certain medical specialization, very few being applicable for any medical discipline. Furthermore, certain areas pose specific limitations: for example, physical examination in clinical practice can’t be taught in an e-learning environment, thus e-learning should complement but not replace the traditional medical education.
Medical imaging and surgery are the medical fields highly supported by e-learning applications, followed by medical ethics, medical biochemistry, pediatrics. Some applications are merely customizations of well-known e-learning platforms (e.g. Moodle or Dokeos), others exploit advanced technologies such as virtual reality, 3D graphics, multimedia technologies, physical simulations or artificial intelligence.

We consider that a major drawback of current medical e-learning platforms is the insufficiency of didactic material: most applications present didactical case studies (real or virtual), but their amount is far from enough. Thus, we propose an e-learning model which incorporates a medical atlas containing a large volume of expertly-annotated real cases, easily accessible and searchable, for various medical specializations. The repository will “self-evolve”, by allowing participants to upload their own materials. A formative learning module will be available. Also, group work will be allowed when putting diagnostics, thus collaborative learning techniques will be exploited in order to increase the information retention rate among users. We claim that the e-learning tool based on our model will be useful not only for undergraduate medical students, but also for continuous medical education.

The work has been funded by the Sectoral Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013 of the Ministry of European Funds through the Financial Agreement POSDRU/159/1.5/S/132397.