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International Team of Academics Explore Blended Learning in Undergraduate Dental Education | Qatar University

International Team of Academics Explore Blended Learning in Undergraduate Dental Education

2023-05-24
Dental Education

An international team of dental academics, led by Professor Kamran Ali, Head of Preclinical Oral Sciences at Qatar University (QU) Health, College of Dental Medicine, as well as academics from the United Kingdom, Austria, Jordan, and Australia, have conducted a global study on blended learning in Undergraduate Dental Education. This study is a testament to the pioneering research being conducted at QU College of Dental Medicine, which is at the forefront of efforts to enhance dental education globally.

Dental education has had to evolve rapidly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This new study published in Medical Education Online has explored how the field has adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic. A total of 320 dental students and 169 faculty members from 47 different dental institutions across Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, North America, and Canada participated in the study that covered the pre-covid, during covid, and after the start of the recovery phase periods. A validated questionnaire administered online, with a total of 489 responses, yielding a response rate of 59%. The questionnaire included a combination of closed and open-ended items related to teaching and learning activities as well as knowledge-based and clinical assessments.

Data was collected for the study between 1 December 2021 and 1 February 2022. Of the faculty members who participated, over 58% had been teaching for more than ten years. The study results provided valuable insights into the evolution of blended learning in dental education and found that while online learning can be suitable for developing and consolidating scientific knowledge, students still prefer learning activities and assessments to be delivered face-to-face. This is particularly important for undergraduate dental students who need to demonstrate competency in a wide range of clinical skills involving irreversible and invasive dental procedures on patients. However, the study also found that online platforms can be used effectively to deliver certain types of learning activities.

The study's findings indicate that online platforms are effective for didactic teaching activities such as lectures, small-group tutorials, student-led presentations, webinars, and feedback sessions for students. However, the field of dental education presents unique challenges, as undergraduate dental students are tasked with performing invasive and irreversible dental procedures on real patients, and must demonstrate competency in a wide range of operative skills. Given that a significant portion of dental training involves direct patient contact over several years, learning and assessing competency in dental operative skills requires face-to-face interactions, as online platforms are not a suitable alternative.

This study is the first of its kind to explore the trends and practices of blended learning in dental education on a global scale, and highlights the need for adaptation in teaching practices. The findings are of interest to the general public as they underscore the importance of adapting educational practices to suit the learning needs of students. By incorporating the best practices reported from across the globe, the development of a blended learning model in undergraduate dental education will continue to evolve. The next step in the research involves further large-scale studies involving dental institutions from around the world.

The study was based on quantitative data collection methods, which may have limited the depth of understanding of the views and experiences of stakeholders. As such, future studies involving qualitative methods such as interviews and focus groups may enhance the understanding of blended learning in dental education.

The study has been published in Medical Education Online (doi:10.1080/10872981.2023.2171700; Impact Factor 6.00; Q1), a leading journal in the field of medical education.

For more information on the study, please contact Professor Kamran Ali, Head of Preclinical Oral Sciences, QU Health College of Dental Medicine at ali.kamran@qu.edu.qa