Medical Education Must Go OnBy Miriam Bello | Fri, 10/09/2020 - 13:27
Education in the country resumed activities in September. Despite the limitations the whole world is still facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, academic institutions had to continue with their educational plans for children and adults, a task not so easily achievable.
In medical careers, practical lessons are an essential part of the curricula but face-to-face activities are still dangerous. This reality has driven academic institutions to migrate their offering to an online and hybrid modality. At the beginning of the outbreak, in March, academic institutions in Mexico had to transform their traditional offer to a fully online service. “Before the pandemic, only 3 percent of UDEM’s offering was online, so our migration within a week was a great effort by the institution and all collaborators and teachers who have worked to deliver quality education,” explained Eduardo Garcia Luna, Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences at UDEM, during an interview with MBN.
When asking García about the continuity of medical courses to give students the right knowledge for practical scenarios, he explained that UDEM has different levels to tackle these practices. “Traditional practical courses migrated to a hybrid modality where we combined case management of simulated situations remotely, where students engage in discussions guided by their professors and other work groups.” UDEM is still sharing clinical experience and knowledge through simulations they have developed where students can do part of this work.
UNAM is another example of adapting education programs. The university has released an in-depth document on their response to COVID-19, addressing their online offer which is based on four stages to ensure quality academic continuity. The first stage is preparation, where the institution gathers all contact information from students and teachers to make sure they have the right material to join the online modality. The second stage is design; based on the findings from the previous stage, UNAM defined the objectives of the course to guarantee a successful remote education. The third stage consists of implementing courses during the regular schedules the university would use for regular classes with break times and promoting interaction between students to foment social interaction and collaboration. The final stage is evaluation, which has been defined as the most complex due to the risk of cheating or looking up the answers during tests. However, UNAM is confident about finding different alternatives depending on the course.
Online modalities have been the preferred option of higher education institutions. However, Mexico is a very polarized country with limited economic and connectivity inequalities. This can become a barrier to access education and, for medicine students, it can worsen the already historic problem of the country regarding limited medical professionals. García said UDEM developed personalized support for students to ensure course continuity, depending on their needs. Meanwhile, in the document presented by UNAM, it is mentioned that during the first stage of the online modality, the university staff will check on the individual situation of each student and teacher to determine a solution and encourage continuity.
There is another challenge to this scenario, which is mental health. UDEM has taken this into consideration and according to García, UDEM developed virtual attention programs, as well as presential programs where necessary, following all sanitary measures to support its community. “This, however, is also an open resource for anyone in need,” he said.
UNAM offers online therapy sessions and constant encouragement. The university based its response on the Learning Communities Institute report to encourage activities that can help teachers and students: frequent question and answer sessions through videoconference, virtual sessions of small groups to discuss their state of mind and health, as well as fostering social environments to maintain or trigger a mental state of strength and resilience.