SERVICE-LEARNING IN OPTOMETRY HIGHER EDUCATION
1 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, University Vision Centre (SPAIN)
2 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Terrassa School of Optics and Optometry (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2018
Location: Palma, Spain
The University Vision Centre (CUV) is the visual health clinic of Terrassa School of Optics and Optometry (FOOT) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), where students perform their BSc and MSc clinical practices. Since 1993, the CUV has attended more than 25,000 patients, half of them being citizens with low incomes, referred from social services. Those patients are attended within the framework of the clinical practices of optometry students, supervised by academic staff. If patients are in need of glasses, they are supplied thanks to partnership with the optical industry, which provides frames, ophthalmic and contact lenses when needed.
Currently, there are 10 undergraduate and master's subjects the syllabus that are based on the service-learning model. The number of companies that provide material free has grown to 14, today, providing a comprehensive and updated sample of mountings. In terms of lenses, the needs of all types of patients can be covered, from low to high power lenses, filters, special treatments or progressive lenses, if needed. Special contact lenses are also fitted if required by the visual condition. Attending particular high visual needs gives a benefit to the project, because they require the highest economic investment and imply a great risk of social exclusion, if they are not covered.
Human and educational values in Service learning projects:
In a healthcare profession, the training process must not be far away from the real environment of society, thus the educational process must go beyond the classroom in order to facilitate training connected with real practice. In this context, service learning is a key tool in health education, since it allows students to learn while providing a direct service to society.
A way for students to experience real live situations and learn from their own experience is participating in social projects directly linked to their future profession. Seeing the result of its action during the learning period makes them grow as citizens and as future professionals. In addition, experience-based training, affects more effectively in the acquisition of skills: learning by doing.
It should be taken into account that in the service learning process, not only the knowledge acquired through optics and optometry studies are consolidated, but also all the transversal competences and personal skills: empathy, critical spirit, civic attitudes, participation, tolerance, professionalism or work oriented toward the common good.
This Service-learning project provides a way of training optometrists as responsible healthcare professionals committed and capable of living in society, which corresponds to the intention of building active citizenship from the public university.
As a benefit, it is a way to give back to society what it gives to University: a return in the form of direct service to a group with special needs, which would not receive, otherwise. Currently, there is no provision of services, within the Spanish public health network, to guarantee eye compensation in a universal and freeway. This means that the most economically disadvantaged groups have an added difficulty in their vital, educational or work progress if they have no access to glasses that they may need to carry out daily life tasks (which include education and work).
Keywords: Service-learnig, Higher Education, optometry, visual health, social services, health services.