E-learning in the dental profession

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Initial Medical’s Luke Rutterford ponders dental career development using e-learning

The millennial generation is technically savvy and no longer satisfied with traditional methods of learning, they want flexibility and interactivity. For them, and, for those further along their career pathway who are experiencing the multi-faceted pressures of life while seeking that essential work/life balance, e-learning has become an attractive and viable option.

The UK has always been a front runner in providing e-learning solutions, however since the government’s Online Learning Task Force’s funding of £100 million in 2011, the rate at which developments have come to market has accelerated.

The dental industry has shown commitment to the cause, with many dedicated dental education providers – as well as manufacturers and suppliers – providing online education as part of their value-added offering.

Why e-learning?

There is some evidence to suggest that students at every level learn more using computer-based tuition than through traditional classroom methods, as discussed by Fletcher and Tobias [1]. Flexibility is another important benefit, and particularly relevant for a busy dentist. E-learning allows the student to learn at any time and place and fits snugly with a busy schedule.

In this fast-changing, heavily regulated world, online resources are more agile. They allow changes to be made to content faster and more easily as well as speeding-up the dissemination of fresh information.

From a cost and time perspective it can be the more economical route. For example, British Telecom delivered e-business training to 23,000 employees in three months at a cost of £5.9 million, compared to £17.8 million and a five-year time span for classroom training [2].

E-learning Platforms in Dentistry

As with any education, careful consideration should be given to the objective of the training and final assessment for the learning process. There are many education providers dedicated to online education for dental professionals, however, many in the profession also turn to manufacturers and suppliers of the products and services they use, seeking the most relevant education material for their practice.

Initial Medical’s myLearning, for example, provides interactive, in-depth learning about the legislation, procedures and products crucial for health and safety compliance in any dental practice – and for the whole dental team.

The Future for E-learning

“Gamification” or e-learning through games, is a very effective – but, as yet, expensive – tool that can be used in virtual education. Some companies are already embracing this concept, including Rolls Royce in its first attempt at e-learning.

“Social media e-learning” is another hot topic as many people hold an account on at least one of the popular platforms. This method encourages interaction and the sharing of information among students.

“Interactive e-learning” might seem very futuristic but is already being used in some technically advanced organisations. It involves wearing a learning device that monitors job performance, while also alerting monitor teams about any unsafe or incorrect working practices. Whether something like this could ever be effective, or indeed welcomed, in the dental profession might make an interesting debate.

Luke is Technical Manager for the Initial Medical and Rentokil Specialist Hygiene divisions of Rentokil Initial in the UK, with responsibility for training, service development, innovation, quality and compliance.
For more information about Initial Medical and myLearning visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or call 0870 850 4045

1] Research Article. E-learning: New trend in Education and Training. Ekta Srivastava and Dr Nisha Agarwal. International Journal of Advanced Research (2013), Volume 1, Issue 8, 797-810
2] http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2014/12/how-e-learning-can-affect-the-future-of-the-dental-hygiene-profession-part-2.html [Accessed January 2018]