Online education has become popular. But is it beneficial or harmful for the healthcare industry? This is an important question as the foundation of the healthcare industry’s future sits on how its members are educated. In some cases, virtual training and education are essential. During the pandemic restrictions of 2020, many schools closed and people had no choice but to learn online. But education is at a crossroads. And it’s vital we understand what’s best for healthcare education moving forward in the short and long term.
Benefits of Online Education
The most obvious benefit is the convenience of online education. You can learn from anywhere, including the comfort of your home. There’s no commute, no stress of getting dressed in certain attire, and no need to even leave the house.
*It can be more cost-effective.
Because the expenses associated with online learning are typically less than those with in-person learning, some organizations charge less for virtual classes. Digital resources and materials also lower the cost of online learning.
It’s often more reasonable for learners, also. There are costs associated with commuting to school which are eliminated when learning from home. Providing the learner already has the equipment to access the courses online, the experience can be more affordable.
*The material is typically up-to-date.
Traditional course material, like books, become out of date on a regular basis, especially in a field such as healthcare. Updating, publishing, and reprinting this material is costly. When it’s appropriate for the material to be offered digitally, in ideal situations, everyone saves, the student and the school.
Challenges with Online Education
We wish online education was 100% effective. But like most things in life, and definitely in healthcare, it’s rare to find solutions that are faultless. Online education comes with its challenges.
Let’s dive into a few.
*Some people learn better with face-to-face instruction and interaction
Online education has its limitations, particularly in certain aspects of healthcare, where hands-on training trumps virtual learning. Many skills are better learned and practiced in live settings, such as mock patient scenarios. These types of settings aid comprehension and retention of information. Nothing can replace physical practice scenarios for students to learn and train.
Also, many people report their motivation is higher when they are learning in a live classroom, whereas they find it difficult to stay motivated learning online.
Another disadvantage is not everyone has the same access to technology (fast internet, computers, etc.). According to a study on the elearning industry:
“Research shows there’s a pervasive link between socioeconomic status and academic achievement, with poor students often getting the shorter end of the stick.”
Granted, a majority of the studies on this topic have been done with children, not adults. But the studies are worth noting and seeing where there are correlations with adult learners.
Blended Learning Is Optimal
Researchers indicate that teacher presence in face-to-face sessions lessens the psychological distance between them and the learners and leads to greater learning. This is because there are verbal aspects like giving praise, soliciting for viewpoints, humor, etc, and non-verbal expressions like eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, etc which make teachers to be closer to learners psychologically (Kelley & Gorham, 2009).
When weighing the disadvantages and advantages, it is clear that a blended learning approach is best. This incorporates online and face-to-face instruction. Students’ classes are divided into online and in-person settings. This combination of education delivery is what is becoming more common, and for just reasons.
How we educate the future healthcare workforce is a priority consideration. A blended approach is proving to be well-received and optimal for learners and institutions. The most important thing is that organizations continue to assess what’s best for students and the industry as a whole and adjust as needed.
Blended learning effectiveness: the relationship between student characteristics, design features and outcomes | International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education | Full Text (springeropen.com)