For the Institute for Medical Education the pandemic year 2020 brought many challenges. Although we all have learned how to cope well in the meantime – many challenges remain. Sending our team to home-office and equip everybody for working efficiently from remote – all within a week – was incredible. Thanks to committed support from IT-staff and the whole team, the transition was possible. 2020 has also been challenging for those who were newly employed. It is hard to acquaint to our working culture and get to know the team, when you mostly only see your team on screen. So much spontaneous communication and exchange on work-matters get lost when you have to arrange a zoom meeting or to send a mail to ask your virtual office mate about his or her opinion.
The new demands and needs for support and online learning and teaching opportunities also affected our daily work. New priorities were set, many ad hoc solutions were implemented (Article VSH/AEU Bulletin). Immediate needs of our students, faculty and others were partly met by accessing existing online learning materials and initiatives (IML eLearning). Still, a broad range of online learning material and online learning opportunities will have to be produced for the future. The IML pursues research (recent SNF-projects: DLT and BBN) which aims at establishing evidence-based principles for digitally supported medical education.
Also in the area of assessment, the pandemic kept us busy. The need for adaptation was enormous. Customised solutions were developed within a very short time so that all exams requested by partners and clients could and did take place. For a broad range of quite different exams, we clarified legal questions, ensured safety and adapted exam formats (Story assessment). Particularly, with our web-based software, an extension to the already implemented Tablet-exam tools, we can now offer online exam at home with students’ private computers. Many partners preferred that solution, while others preferred onsite exams with special hygiene concepts. Also, the medical faculty in Bern still run all written exams in BernExpo, with enough distance between each student. Practical exams are run onsite, with special precautions.
Before the pandemic, medical teaching was deeply rooted in traditional face to face teaching. As long as the major experience of lecturers is related to traditional teaching, it is hard to change, in this way the pandemic caused a disruptive development. This is a chance because it brings new experiences, insight in what works and what needs to be improved. Now, we need to take action, in order to facilitate that the new normal continues to develop, instead of reverting to traditional teaching when the pandemic would allow for it.
The good news is, useful conceptual frameworks and means for online teaching and learning have been described and are existing since decades: «Flipped Classroom» or «Inverted Classroom» are well known approaches among educationalists, (i.e. a combination of online and onsite teaching and learning, easy description is found here. A more general concept is «Blended Learning» (i.e. a combination of on-line and onsite learning and teaching, an easy description is found here. In addition to the conceptual frameworks, we need new tools. The new educational «books» are digital, they are dynamic, multimedial and interactive. Learning material is always available, continues to be developed, improved, extended and updated. This is yet a new challenge, but a very interesting one!
Sissel Guttormsen, April 2021