A novel structure for online surgical undergraduate teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the delivery of online higher education. Online learning is a novel experience for medical education in Sri Lanka. A novel approach to undergraduate surgical learning was taken up in an attempt to improve the interest amongst the students in clinical practice while maximizing the limited contact time. Online learning activity was designed involving medical students from all stages and multi consultant panel discussions. The discussions were designed to cover each topic from basic sciences to high-level clinical management in an attempt to stimulate the student interest in clinical medicine. Online meeting platform with free to use basic plan and a social media platform were used in combination to communicate with the students. The student feedback was periodically assessed for individual topics as well as for general outcome. Lickert scales and numeric scales were used to acquire student agreement on the desired learning outcomes. A total of 1047 student responses for 7 questionnaires were analysed. During a 6-week period, 24 surgical topics were discussed with 51 contact hours. Eighty-seven per cent definitely agreed (highest agreement) with the statement ‘students benefitted from the discussions’. Over 95% have either participated for all or most sessions. A majority of the respondents (83.4%) ‘definitely agreed’ that the discussions helped to improve their clinical sense. Of the total respondents, 79.3% definitely agreed that the discussions helped to build an interest in clinical medicine. Around 90% agreed that both exam-oriented and clinical practice-oriented topics were highly important and relevant. Most widely raised concerns were the poor Internet connectivity and limitation of access to the meeting platform. Online teaching with a novel structure is feasible and effective in a resource-limited setting. Students agree that it could improve clinical interest while meeting the expected learning outcomes.