COVID-19 is a challenge that is invading our lives rapidly and our ability to be adapted to a new way of living, a new way to express our feelings to our dearest and also requiring new ways of communication (teaching & learning) in our daily lives. It seems obvious to say that an important part of the student’s academic achievements could now be depending on how successful teachers will be in developing new learning techniques for their students at an unprecedented speed of implementation to maintain, as close as possible, uninterrupted education during an unknown period of time in isolation across numerous countries.
We all agree with the idea that with the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, technology and on-line learning platforms have become the best, and sometimes the only, alternative for the educational institutions seeing how they are growing exponentially. The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unknown, but it is already clear that the outbreak is forcing huge changes in the technology industry, which has already made a big contribution in preserving social communities and contributing to our way of learning and teaching during lockdown. In fact, some researchers in this area describe lots of advantages using e-learning: a wider strategic vision, a wider range of services and development of change management are just some of them that come to mind.
However, the biggest challenge for the teachers is how to move from traditional education to e-learning and how to overcome the problem of practical courses and training. Some institutions, like The Open University (http://www.open.ac.uk/) have been geared up for remote learning for some time. However, the majority are really heavily on face to face contact and don’t currently have the infrastructure in place for such a massive, immediate, reconfiguration to their curriculums.
Thankfully, there’s some great initiatives available to everyone, like Future Learn ( http://www.futurelearn.com ) which even has a course on dentistry from The University of Sheffield (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/discover-dentistry).
Commercial businesses are also helping to start to fill some of the void. Virteasy Dental (www.virteasy.com), for instance, is a well known company specialised in virtual reality for dental universities with universities in more than 15 countries with the activities primarily in the Americas, China and across Europe. Whilst their traditional model is a virtual simulation suite within a dental university, they have been helping universities transition to a virtual learning environment for remote teaching and remote learning. In a trial with The University of Plymouth (https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/), which is expected to be rolled out worldwide shortly, they have provided cloud access to their software through a free initiative called #ChezMoi. It consists of three components:
- Virteasy Dental For Remote Teachers #ChezMoi
The company has provided two pieces of software for teachers to access remotely. Virteasy Assistant which is allowing teachers to continue evaluating, giving feedback and grading students work which can be used to provide predicative grades for the current academic year.
The other piece of software, Virteasy Editor, is permitting teachers to teach anatomy online through 3D visualisation of teeth, caries and patient cases. Real patient scans that had previously been taken through intra-oral scanners or CT scanners can be imported into their software and used as real case studies.
- Virteasy Dental for Remote Students #ChezMoi
Where universities are able to provide their students with the hardware required, they are able to continue practicing their manual skills. This is vitally important in subjects such as dentistry where motor skills are invaluable as students progress and will have to give patient treatments in the future.
Photo: Virteasy Dental for Remote Students #ChezMoi
It’s not only a question of being able to continue learning, but how should universities conduct meetings, too?
Laval Virtual World is an interesting case that shows us how the most innovative on-line technology can merge with teaching during COVID-19. This on-line event that was rebuilt in a virtual world which took place from 22nd to 24th April 2020. The event is normally held at Laval city in France but due to coronavirus pandemic, Laval Virtual mixed innovation & technology to go forward with this yearly renowned event and they created in a really short time a Virtual Reality scenario where the conferences and the Awards ceremony took place by streaming and the Art & Virtual Reality Festival was presented too!
Business meetings took place and the contents were inspired by the most influential speakers, the most relevant brands, the best avant-garde artists with some great added values as the chance to keep meeting and exchanging with key stakeholders from the VR/AR community in meeting rooms or one of their relaxing areas so many possibilities of networking by chats, live discussions, private areas.
Photo: Laval Virtual World
It seems the experiences that the students receive will, unfortunately, not be consistent for all and whether their experience during this time helps keep them on track with their studies and not having to repeat a year will depend on how their ‘instructors’ faced COVID-19: cooperation, resilience, positivity and innovation seems to be important values to take into account right now.