Medical faculty at the Dokuz Eylui University in Turkey conducted a narrative review summarizing how e-learning has been implemented for clinical microbiology (CM) and infectious diseases (ID) to ensure that scientists, clinicians, and students stay updated on the latest learning modalities.

E-learning Defined

The researchers defined e-learning as “an approach to teaching/learning that is based on the use of electronic media and devices as tools for improving access to training, communication, and interactions that facilitates the adoption of new knowledge, skills, and/or behavior/attitude.”


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The researchers also noted that e-learning is flexible and engaging, encourages collaboration, and consists of synchronous and/or asynchronous structured activities. In addition, it may include blended learning and flipped classroom, which combine e-learning and face-to-face teaching; students learn basic concepts at home, and the time spent with the instructor is used more efficiently.

E-learning resources for CM and ID

Professional scientific societies: These organizations offer online e-learning content that is reliable and up-to-date.

  • The American Society of Microbiology (ASM) provides a resource e-library with links to educational resources that have been vetted and reviewed, and podcasts on microbiology, virology, and parasitology.

Public health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have online resources geared toward public health professionals.

  • The ECDC Virtual Academy has free e-learning courses, simulation exercises, and training material focused on communicable disease prevention, preparedness, and detection.
  • The CDC started a virtual reality training project, which currently offers a 60-minute course on the proper use of a class II biosafety cabinet.

Incorporating technology into traditional lectures: Adding videos to lectures can enhance the e-learning experience.

  • Videos increased students’ understanding, skill, and confidence in communicating science when performing core microbiologic techniques.
  • Videos can also be effective for providing feedback on technical performances.

Case-based learning materials and virtual patients: These e-learning tools narrow the theory-practice gap, and also allow students to be educated on rare diseases.

  • Case-based e-learning is offered by BMJ Learning, ASM, Aquifer, Access Medicine, and Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education.

Interactive telemedicine: This is useful when a group requires long-distance structured training.

  • A clinical microbiology program in Brazil that was 70% distance learning to accommodate remote laboratory workers showed an improvement in their laboratory skills.

Universities and scientific institutes: These organizations provide online training and education on CM and ID.

  • The University of Edinburgh, the University of Nottingham, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Pasteur institute in France all offer online CM and ID training programs with the possibility of obtaining a degree or diploma.

Social media: This is an effective way to access and spread scientific information and expert opinion in a timely manner. The study authors noted that “the first genomic analyses of SARS-CoV-2 and epidemiologic data were circulated through Twitter.”

  • Scientists and clinicians often use Twitter to exchange ideas and information, engage with each other, and follow healthcare-related conferences.
  • The drawback to this e-learning venue is the need to confirm the accuracy of messages posted on Twitter .

According to the researchers, “e-learning tools compatible with European core curriculum and free-access will have an important role in achieving a high level of proficiency by providing more effective, standardized training and adapting to the needs of the learner.” They concluded that, “e-learning gives educators new roles, for designing and facilitating better learning experiences with the help of digital technologies.”

Reference

Sayıner AA, Ergönül E. E-learning in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2021;27(11):1589-1594. doi:10.1016/j.cmi.2021.05.010