1 De Montfort University, Leicester School of Allied Health Sciences (UNITED KINGDOM)
2 Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche (SPAIN)
3 Universidad San Pablo CEU, Facultad de Farmacia (SPAIN)
4 University of Makeni, Department of Public Health (SIERRA LEONE)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 2102-2106
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.0508
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
The coronavirus pandemic 2019 (COVID-19), which has rapidly expanded with more than 12 million cases and almost 550,000 deaths globally as of July 9th 2020, has resulted in unprecedented changes and curriculum modifications to adapt medical education to the new situation of social distancing. In order to comply with public health measures to respond to the on-going pandemic, academics from different universities have used our novel resource for teaching and learning medical parasitology, named DMU e-Parasitology®, which has been developed by different European universities and organisations at De Montfort University (DMU, UK). In addition to the web-based package, and in collaboration with the Institute of Artificial Intelligence at DMU, we have created a pilot DMU e-Parasitology® app, which was launched on 3rd April 2020 and can be downloaded for Android platforms from google store here: The creation of this app is a response to students’ feedback collected in previous teaching interventions carried out at different higher education institutions in Europe and Africa by the international DMU e-Parasitology® team, and specifically to facilitate access to the different resources of the DMU e-Parasitology® package to communities with very limited access to the Internet and/or to laptops/desktop computers.

The pilot app created only presents some of the innovative resources of the DMU e-Parasitology® package, to enable us to check the app with different focus groups and collect comprehensive information to further develop an easily accessible and effective DMU e-Parasitology® app. As a result of the lockdown measures implemented in Sierra Leone, third (n=25) and fourth (n=17) year students enrolled in ‘Public Health’ at the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) were offered our pilot app to use to study medical parasitology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were also asked to complete a questionnaire with two parts (A and B) that present a series of different MCQs to enable us to analyse the impact of the novel pilot app on their knowledge. Students that wanted to participate were requested to complete both parts of the questionnaire at different times, before and after completing the two virtual clinical medical parasitology case studies available on the pilot app. Both parts are available on-line and accessible through their smartphones to avoid students needing to search for the information. To date, twenty students have completed part A of the questionnaire; however, only three students have voluntarily completed both parts. All participants indicated that they had learnt some basic skills to diagnose infections of the parasites studied in the pilot app (Entamoeba spp., Plasmodium spp., Schistosoma spp. and free-living amoebas) and gained appropriate knowledge. In relation with the functionality of the app, despite one participant suggesting the app was difficult to use, all have indicated that it is comfortable or very comfortable to use. The novel pilot DMU e-Parasitology® app, in a very short time since launching, has shown to play a significant and successful role in medical parasitology education in a country with very limited access to laptops and/or computers, especially during challenging and emotional times for the Sierra Leonean population that has the last few years been impacted by two highly contagious and deadly viruses, Ebola and SARS-CoV-2.
Smartphone app, medical parasitology, virtual learning, distance learning, Sierra Leone.