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Students’ Attitudes and Skills towards Online Dental Education in Saudi Arabia: A Cohort Study

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Introduction:

E-learning (online learning) mandates new teaching and learning strategies. It also requires higher level of technology, communication, collaboration, as well as time management skills. Such soft skills seem to be challenging to the current dental educational environment.

 

 

Aim:

The aim of this study was to assess the changes in students’ perception and skills toward the challenges of online learning in dental education in Saudi Arabia among a cohort group.

 

Materials and Method:

 

This is a longitudinal study using a 5-Likert scale questionnaire for evaluating the changes in e-learning readiness among a cohort group of dental students at (KAUFD) from 2013 to 2017. The questionnaire was distributed to a cohort group of dental students at two points of time; in 2013-14 when the group were at fourth year undergraduate level, and 2016-17 when they were at the internship year. The questions assessed; technological access, computer skills, online skills for personal as well as learning purposes, online motivation level in using online tools for personal as well as learning purposes, impact of e-learning on their learning, and their overall readiness to e-learning in dental education. Descriptive and group comparisons were conducted using Chi-square, and t-tests. Significance level was set at (p<0.05).

 

Results:

The respondents were 122; 72 from fourth year group and 50 from the internship group. 

Results showed adequate technology access and computer skills among both groups with no significant differences (p>0.05).

Both groups reported moderate to high level of online skills with no significant differences in their skills between personal and learning purposes (p>0.05).

They also reported moderate to low motivation with no significant differences between personal and learning purposes (p>0.05).

Both groups reported high level of experience in using online tools with no significant differences in their experience between the two groups (p>0.05).

The impacts of e-learning on dental education was positively reported by fourth year group with better readiness to online learning than the internship group with a significant difference between the two groups (p<0.05).  

 

Conclusion:

E-learning with its advanced online tools and open sources was considered a challenge to dental education (3,4). The current study showed that our current students are ready for online learning and implementing the technology in education. It also showed as students get more mature they perceive the impact of online learning in education much better. Such findings can be considered a strong base for further investigation in such field.

 

References:

Eaton KA, Reynolds PA, Grayden SK et.al (2008) "A vision of dental education in the third millennium" Br Dent J. 2008 Sep 13;205(5):261-71.

Garland, K. V., (2010), "E-Learning vs. Classroom Instruction in Infection Control in a Dental Hygiene Program".  Journal of Dental Education 74 (6), 637-643

Ward, R, Moule, P, and Lockyer, L. “Adoption of Web 2.0 Technologies in Education for Health Professionals in the UK: Where are we and why?” Electronic Journal of e-Learning Volume 7 Issue 2 2009, (pp165 - 172)

Zary, N., Johnson ,G.,Fors. U. (2009), " Web-based virtual patients in dentistry: factors influencing the use of cases in the Web-SP system". European Journal of Dental Education 13, 2-9.

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