Queens’ professor launches e-learning platform to re-engage medical students


The digital era is many things to many people, but to professors, it means that students are only half present in class.

Dr. Sanjay Sharma, a professor of ophthalmology at Queens’ University and retina specialist noticed that his students never remained engaged for an entire 60-minute lecture.

To solve this problem, he and a team of globally renowned physicians went on to develop medskl.com, an e-learning platform for medical students that allows them to experience the lecture material in a variety of formats and lengths.

“I’m a professor at Queens’. What I notice when I lecture is that sometimes it was clear that students weren’t listening to the didactic lecture,” said Sharma.

The platform underwent a soft launch in July, though since then, has signed on more than 50 universities. Starting in the fall, most Canadian medical schools will start using medskl.com as part of its educational strategy. Furthermore, in the United States, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Duke will be incorporating medskl.com into their medical curriculum this year.

Sharma notes that today’s students grew up in a different world than there predecessors — one where online resources are easily accessible and information is consumed in much more frequent, smaller doses.

“Fundamentally, they’re used to growing up in different ways with different learning styles. They’re used to going online and searching for different resources. They’re used to shorter pieces of content that are visually-oriented,” said Sharma.

Over 170 professors and physicians from the world’s most well regarded universities have been recruited to submit content to the platform in all kinds of different formats, including multimedia, video lectures, white-board animations, summary notes , audio, etc.

Some of the experts featured on the platform hail from institutions such as University of Toronto, Queen’s, McGill, Dalhousie and UBC here in Canada, and Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic. 100 lesson modules have been created so far, with 100 more to be added in the coming months.

Sharma explains that the physicians of tomorrow are entering a different world than the generation before them. Not only are more resources available to physicians, but more resources are available to patients.

“I think that to be a physician today, it’s more than just content. It’s a hands-on experience, we’re trying to augment the experience that’s already out there,” said Sharma.

Furthermore, the rise of digital health and the electronic medical records have greatly altered the internal processes of Canada’s medical system, adding a level of cohesion to the system that wasn’t present before. The education students receive, elaborated Sharma, must reflect the changing profession they’re entering.

While the platform has already been adopted by most Canadian medical schools and some American medical schools, Sharma plans to continue expanding until medskl.com has a sustained presence across North America. Furthermore, Sharma describes the platform’s longterm goal of being a resource for health care practitioners in third world countries as well.

“Our goal is to bring this information to a global audience, and medskl.com now makes it possible. Medical students, caregivers and patients – whether they’re located in Toronto, Lagos, Mumbai or anywhere else — can now learn from the best professors and the most effective educational resources,” Sharma concluded.

Image credit: jasleen_kaur

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