As part of their Healthcare of Later Life placement medical students take part in a simulation-based learning (SBL) programme delivered by the Nottinghamshire Healthcare Simulation Centre. Since face-to-face teaching was not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic the programme was instead delivered online.
The aim of the study was to compare the feasibility and acceptability of delivering an SBL programme for medical students virtually versus face to face.
The existing SBL programme was delivered online while largely keeping the same content and format as for prior, face to face, cohorts. Feedback questionnaires from 136 face-to-face participants (F2F) from the 2019–2020 cohort and 131 virtual participants (V) from the 2020–2021 cohort were compared.
Overall, the virtual course was still acceptable to most participants with 99% agreeing or strongly agreeing that the learning objectives were met and 98% indicating they would recommend it to a colleague. However, there was a decrease in Likert scale ratings across all domains in the V group. This was most apparent when examining the ‘strongly agree’ responses: the venue/remote format was suitable for the session 34% decrease, the course length was appropriate 30% decrease, the pace of the course was appropriate 20% decrease, the trainers were well-prepared 15% decrease, the presenters were engaging 10% decrease, the simulation was helpful and relevant 10% decrease, the content of the course was organized and easy to follow 5% decrease, the learning objectives were met 4% decrease. There was a small increase in responses in the strongly disagree and disagree categories.
Implication for practice:
Providing the SBL programme using an online format was feasible while also being acceptable to most participants. However, participants did not rate this experience as highly as face-to-face teaching. An interesting finding is that participants rated the pace and length of the online course as less agreeable, despite the content and scheduling is the same as for the face-to-face group. Analysis of qualitative responses indicated that participants in the V group found it difficult to sustain concentration for the duration of the virtual session. This may relate to a newly emerging phenomenon dubbed ‘Zoom Fatigue’ (Lee, December 2020) which is related to the greater cognitive load required when participating in social interactions in a virtual environment. Based on these findings, face-to-face teaching should resume when practicable. The virtual delivery may be improved if the course length was reduced.