By Steven Tuggle, DMD
With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg expanded people's ability to learn. Before this, very few books existed and illiteracy was common. The printing press, therefore, enabled more people to read because books became increasingly available, thrusting Europe into the original information age.
Five centuries later, the internet is birthing a contemporary renaissance in learning in the same way as the printing press did, by increasing the availability of quality education beyond in-person learning. If the internet ignited this revolution in learning, the epidemic poured the proverbial gasoline on the fire. Fortunately, technology known as "streaming" was ready and more than able to meet educators' and students' demands.
THE INTERACTIVE LEARNING RENAISSANCE
Streaming technology allows the delivery of live or recorded media content to computers and mobile devices, removing the traditional barriers found with in-person education. For example, DOCS Education, a leader in providing continuing dental education since 1999, now uses a proprietary interactive live streaming program to present its cutting-edge training in sedation dentistry.
The use of live stream allows dental continuing education providers to facilitate lifelong learning, skill development, and professional growth by offering the benefits of education by streaming such as:
Cost-effective learning The lifelong learner spends a considerable amount of money on continuing education, especially when pursuing an advanced certificate. Options that utilize interactive live streaming can save you money on travel, hotel, and meals.
Practice-friendly learning Traveling to continuing education courses disrupts the office and is detrimental to office finances as fixed overhead costs continue. Online streaming courses require much less or no time away from the office, allowing the dentist to maintain production.
Time-efficient learning The overall time needed to travel to continuing education courses and especially for obtaining an advanced certification dramatically saves the precious commodity of time.
On-demand learning Participants can begin courses better prepared by accessing some pre-recorded content before a live stream presentation, and complete at their convenience. An advantage to on-demand content is reviewing the material as much as needed to understand the material thoroughly.
Unhindered live interaction with the course instructor During the live session, participants can take part with the instructor in real-time in the same manner as in-person learning.
Polling Real-time response technology adds excellent value to learning by live stream and enhances the course due to:
Instantaneous feedback: The course instructor receives instant feedback on the participants’ grasp of a concept. This helps the instructor meet the participants’ expectations by modifying the presentation in real-time if necessary.
Maximizes participants’ engagement in the course: Polling increases the attention of the participants as they actively take part throughout the presentation.
Improved learning: The active engagement and instant feedback ensure learning is taking place by all participants in a non-threatening anonymous manner before continuing with the course material.
Efficient question-answer sessions: Course participants can submit questions digitally during the session. Additional faculty work in the background to moderate and monitor these questions. These faculty can answer some questions immediately and submit others to the instructor.
Learn with others: Social distancing due to COVID-19 has separated people and prevented learning while personally interacting with others. Programs using interactive live streaming make learning and interacting with others a part of the education process.
Office hours: Small group interaction with faculty is possible with two-way video conferencing. Technologies such as Zoom video conferencing make possible further discussion to answer questions.
ADVANTAGES OF LIVESTREAMING VS. PRERECORDED LEARNING
Remote learning has been around for decades. Years ago, innovators in dental education used VHS cassettes to teach endodontics, crown and bridge, and other dental procedures. Video-based learning is still a viable learning option, but there are advantages to learning live stream. These advantages include:
The instructor is live: Superior student learning happens in a live virtual classroom instead of watching a video play on a screen.
Answering questions occurs contemporaneously: Inherent in video learning is the continuation of instruction despite the viewer not understanding a previously covered topic.
Virtual tools are available: After production, the video no longer has the potential to incorporate innovative technology. Live interaction streaming can implement these tools immediately for improved presentations.
Streaming courses require commitment: It’s easy to procrastinate learning, but live streaming courses require the same firm commitment as live and in-person courses. This commitment promotes disciplined learning in the pursuit of continuing education goals.
THE FUTURE OF DENTAL EDUCATION
Researchers predict the online education market to reach a value of over $130 billion by 2023. Driving this growth is a rapidly growing demand for video streaming in education. Dentistry is sure to utilize and benefit from the continued development of these and other digital technologies.
Aside from DOCS Education, other reputable continuing educating bodies that are taking advantage of with upcoming symposiums include The Seattle Study Club, Dentsply Sirona Inc., and the American Dental Association.
The Seattle Study Club is an “international network of doctors interested in furthering their knowledge to provide excellent care to each and every patient that comes into their practice. There are over 260 clubs in the network located in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Dentsply Sirona Inc. is an ADA CERP recognized provider of dental continuing education that features over 100 live and on-demand webinars.
The American Dental Association is America’s leading advocate for dental health—offering both learning at your own pace and live virtual events.
Continuing dental education instructors will have a remarkable effect on dentists’ skills by eliminating many barriers to delivering educational content. Reaching more dentists for advanced training in all aspects of dental care helps deliver the best care for dental patients.
As dental professionals, we can begin to see digital reality technology take its place in continuing education sooner rather than later. As augmented reality and virtual reality become better understood and more affordable, hands-on continuing education courses will continue to expand the live streaming learning renaissance.
About the Author: Dr. Steven Tuggle received his DMD from the Medical College of Georgia before practicing general dentistry in the United States Navy. He then completed a residency in endodontics at the Medical College of Georgia. He recently retired from full-time practice limited to endodontics.