The Challenges of E-Learning Faces in Medical Sciences Education from the Viewpoints of the Academic Staff

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

1 Students’ Research Committee, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

2 Biotechnology Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

3 Education Development Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

4 Faculty of Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

5 Mobile Company of Iran, Tehran, Iran

6 Department of Health Management and Economics, Faculty of Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

7 Faculty of Medicine, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

8 Research Development & Coordination Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

Abstract

Background:
 
By the development of E-learning in the world and also in Iran, Tabriz University of Medical Science has been implementing and expanding E-learning. The investigation of its problems from the academic staffs’ viewpoints, and proposing solutions in order to solve or eliminate the problem effects add to its advantages and provide sustainable basis according to the necessity of changing traditional education toward E-learning. Methods: The present research is a descriptive study and the population under investigation involves the academic staff of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences who were selected randomly. The Validity and reliability of the questionnaires were evaluated and SPSS.15 software was used in order to analyze the data. Results: Problems were classified into six approaches and twenty-four cases. The average of the administrative approach scores was 13.18±1.96, electronic approach 11.66±2.32, educational approach 13.39±2.22, economical approach 9.62±2.09, cultural and psychological approaches 20.43±2.53 and finally social and cooperative approaches were calculated to be 10.09±1.97. Conclusions:
The teaching board members believe that they do not have enough time or skills for compiling and evaluating E-learning materials and there is no proper culture for this, the attitude should be changed. Finally not only should the professors learn how to compile, use and to take rapid feedback, but it is also essential that they recognize their new roles (as learning facilitators) in realizing and expanding their mode of education, by their imaginative creations. Of course attendance of the professors without support of the universities and proper planning for enhancing the relationship between the professors and staff of information technology are not logical.

Keywords


INTRODUCTION With the emergence of World Wide Web (WWW), new terms and vocabularies have been brought up to the training literature field, especially medical sciences, which E-learning and training is one of them. Despite the breadth of this emerging phenomenon, there is not a common and unique definition for it. Commission to technology and adults learning (2001) defines E-learning as the whole training and learning experiences which are delivered through electronic technology such as internet, audio and visual tapes, satellite broadcasting, television and compact drives (CD) (1).The extent of the growing e-learning courses and projects have been started in mid-90s, and therefore , nowadays, we hear more about the improvement of learning processes rather than teaching methods at universities. E-learning not also facilitates transmission of new medical information, but also it improves the amount of knowledge and skills of those who are practicing medicine, creates equal learning opportunities for all, enhances quality of medical training and finally reduces medical costs (2). On the other hand, individual disparities are not barriers for success in group training at universities; the teacher can choose appropriate tools and media for teaching and training students based on their learning style, in other words, each student applies with a special training strategy (3). In addition, this kind of training strategy provides possibility of lifetime learning in any field, for every person, in every place, any time. As studies show, the usage of Elearning has been considered as a plan at universities all over the world (4). This method has been implemented or is being implemented in Iran, too. At Tabriz University of medical sciences, the thought of creating electronic training unit has been started in 2003 in medical education and development center. From February 2008, it has been called E-learning system (ELS) and started to hold training courses, practically in operational phase of this project, and currently it expands related activities and increases the extent of E-learning there. As the rapid expanding use of electronic tools in teaching and learning area is realized, analyzing the problems of this emerging phenomenon becomes kind of necessity. Understanding and facing these problems and issues either eliminate or reduce their effects and also considering the approach of changing traditional training method to electronic training makes universities firmer in stepping to this area. The failure of many famous and vast programs to reach their goals, justifies the importance of these problems. For instance, academic failure in electronic courses has been more than verbal courses in some cases (5). Furthermore, as academic staff play an important and dominant role in this area, their approaches and attitudes are the first step in propelling educational system towards this way. Therefore, this study is aimed to analyze problems affecting E-learning from the viewpoints of academic staff and suggests some strategies to solve these problems. To facilitate the processes and getting comprehensive and better conclusion, the problems are divided into six approaches, and each of them is divided into 3 to 6 problems (totally, 24 problems) which include; administrative, electronic, educational, economical, psychological-cultural and finally social and cooperative approaches. Each of these approaches focuses on some aspects of failure causes of this training method. Administrative approach: This approach mainly focuses on management of E-learning method. Also it emphasizes on the organizational issues including rejecting the plan because of being time-consuming for university, lack of standardization in preparation of their content or lack of appropriate quality standards, lack of time for academic staff and also weak relationships between them and staff working in information technology department (forinstance, community of continuing medical training). Electronic approach: This approach has been considered as the main infrastructure of medical training and E-health which includes terms such as medicine, communication, information, and society (6). It discusses issues such as lack of adequate information about how to work with related hard and soft wares, lack of the adaptation and full compatibility, inaccessibility of students to the least electronic training (such as computer and internet), and finally, lack of appropriate technology at university due to the incompatibility of telecommunication network with modern standards or not making of current potentials. Educational approach: According to the studies done in this area, this has been considered as the most important reason for the failure of E-learning (1). According to these studies, lack of skills for course designing, development, delivery, and information management creates the essential needs for this area. Quinn, Corry and Lee consider 11 roles for faculties who teach electronically which include; teacher, training designer, aware of information, technician, executer, lab facilitators, support staff, editors, librarians, graphic designers and assessment experts (7-8). Weak quality of training packages for E-learning, faculty resistance against accepting this kind of training, and disability in delivering some of the courses through this method are the main problems, especially in medical sciences field. Economical approach: According to this approach, this kind of training follows a large amount of costs including costs for stabilizing programs and training and improving performance, hard and soft wares and technology-updating costs, and costs for creating physical location for live virtual classroom and related facilities. Psychological and cultural approach: According to this approach, one of the main problems for implementing Elearning at universities is the unwillingness of faculties in the case of this method. In this training method, teachers’ role is changed from an academic staff to a catalyst or learning facilitator (9). Lack of motivation among faculties to accept E-learning due to the weak basis of cultural building and unchanged traditional approach, technophobia, lack of trust in information technology, cultural defect and the way of electronic evaluation of students, and property right issues (lack of protection for property rights) are discussed in this approach. Social and cooperative approach: In traditional training, 40 to 50% of contents are presented by the teacher and the remaining is learned through participating in classes, students’ point of views and doing research (10). Therefore

1- Rahimi Dust Gh. [What is the experience of E-learning?]. Journal of information 2007; 10(2): 337-55. [In Persian].

2- Alavi Sh. [Rapid E-learning in medical sciences]. Journal of educational strategies 2009; 2(1): 27-33. [In Persian].

3- Sedgi Pour B, Mirzayi Sh. [Attitudinal challenges of academic members, about Elearning]. Journal of technology and education 2008; 1. 19-26. [In Persian].

4- Emami H, Aghdasi M, Asushe A. [Elearning in medical sciences]. Journal of the Faculty of Medicine of Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services 2009; 23(2): 102-11 [In Persian].

5- Shaeedi A. The investigation about future challenges in organizations and performing the E-learning projects 2009. Available from: URL; http://www.pnu.ac.ir/ Portal/Home/Default.aspx?CategoryID=4156 0b73-ac69-479a-8312-7b09e42ba1de [In Persian].

6- Kazemi A. [Usage of computer in medical sciences]. Physician and laboratory 2007; 25: 10-14.

7- Quinn LO, Corry M. Factors that deter faculty from participating in distance education. Journal of distance learning administrators 2002; 4(5). 112-18

8- Lee J. Faculty and administrator perceptions of instructional support for distance education. Int J Instr Media 2002; 29(1): 27-45.

9- Karimzadegan D, Mojtahedzadeh R, Mohammadi A. E-Learning in medical education in the world and Iran. Journal of Medical Education 2007; 11(1-2): 9-37.

10- Hosseini H. An investigation on the role and importance of E-learning in solving the problems of traditional educational system and using of it for making education more public. [Cited 2010]. Available from: URL; http://taalim.ir/Default.aspx?page=showartic le&articleid=37 [In Persian].

11- Semnan University of Medical Sciences (EDC). Role and importance of information technology on improving the professors and requirements of virtual teaching [cited 2009]. Available from: URL; http://rds.sem-ums.ac.ir/edc/downloads/%25 D9 [In Persian].

12- Rahimi Dust Gh, Razavi A. [Publicizing the innovation and phenomenon of Elearning]. Journal of psychology and education 2007; 13(4): 127-42. [In Persian].

13- Rudowski P, Rudowski R. E-Learning in medicine- myth or reality. Medical University of Warsaw, the department of medical informatics and telemedicine, Poland. Available from: URL; http://www.medetel.eu/download/2005/paral lel_sessions/abstract/0407/Elearning_ in_medicine.doc

14- Maguire LL. Literature review- faculty participation in online distance education: Barriers and motivators. Online journal of distance learning administration; 8(1). Retrieved September 3/2007. Available from: URL; http://www.westga.edu/%7Edistance/ ojdla/spring81/maguire81.htm