Medical students ditch lectures for online learning

We’ve all cut classes before. Whether it’s to sleep in or to hang out with friends, the motivation behind ditching usually depends on how important or difficult that particular class is.

Medicine is often viewed as one of the most, if not the most difficult course of university study. Surely our future doctors diligently attend each class and lecture, come rain, shine or even late nights with copius amounts of alcohol?

Well, put that assumption aside, because 2017 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges found it to be false.

About one-fourth of medical students at US universities reported that they “almost never” went to class during their first two years of medical school, Stat News reported. This is a five percent increase from 2015.

“There were times that I didn’t go to a single class, and then I’d get to the actual exam and it would be my first time seeing the professor,” said Lawrence Wang, a third-year MD-PhD student at the University of California, San Diego, and the National Institutes of Health.

“Especially, when Step was coming up, I pretty much completely focused on studying outside materials.”

But before any of us start gasping as the prospect of the future medical officers in charge of our lives not receiving the training they need, a closer look into the reasons for their truancy is needed.

It turns out that they are skipping classes to learn. Specifically, to learn faster through online, self-guided learning.

One such learning tool used is SketchyMedical, an online platform with videos covering medical school microbiology, pharmacology and pathology through illustrations of unique and unforgettable scenes.

The aim is to help students build “memory palaces” by associating medical topics with memorable visual elements, helping them remember the seemingly infinite details for Step 1, a make-or-break eight-hour multiple-choice test taken at the end of students’ pre-clinical years.

The shift towards EdTech appears to be another facet of dissatisfaction medical students are feeling with how schools are structured today. In addition to paying close to US$60,000 a year in tuition, they spend a further US$229.99 or US$369.99 for a six-month or one-year plan respectively on SketchyMedical.

Inside Higher Ed notes that medical schools are not keeping up with this shift in the desires and needs of their students. There has yet to be resolution over the conflicting needs of the medical profession; critical thinking is now recognised to be more important than memorisation, but the national licensing board still heavily emphasises memory in all board exams.

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