The impact of COVID-19 on in-person education was immediate and has endured into the current recovery period. The effect of the pandemic on continuing education (CE) has been binary: On one hand, there has been a decrease of in-person training and learning, but on the other hand, there has been a rapid increase in live streaming education. In fact, the lockdowns that were implemented globally during the pandemic saw an increase of livestreaming by approximately 50%, with an expected industry growth to $130 billion by the year 2023.
At the onset of COVID-19, we saw our once busy and hectic lives come to an indefinite and rather abrupt halt. With the infection risk inherent in travel, in-person CE programs also took a hiatus. Companies began operating with employees sheltering in place. As for dentists, their comfort with working during the pandemic varied greatly.
Throughout the crisis, the convenience and cost-effectiveness of remote learning became undeniable. Dental professionals needed to keep up on training and education from home but required a more interactive approach than prerecorded teaching. With the introduction of interactive, livestreaming education, the student and teacher can now interact in real time, the lectures are live, and the audience can ask questions and engage with peers and instructors.
As we have seen technology allow for meaningful interactions from the comfort of home, could interactive, livestreaming education transform how we view and conduct CE programs?
WHAT IS INTERACTIVE LIVESTREAMING?
Interactive livestreaming (ILS) allows the learners to increase their subject knowledge from their chosen locations. This interactive, proactive course design enables the learner to meet educational requirements through live interactions. ILS is the future of remote online education, saving participants time and money on travel expenses. ILS accomplishes this through interactive, 2-way video conferencing; innovative polling; immediate-response Q and A technology; participant-focused “office hours” with faculty or regulatory counsel; and the ability to interact with fellow participants via customized live chat.
Here’s an example of how ILS courses are broken down:
- Fifty percent to 80% of ILS lectures include real-time polling and live, interactive Q and A sessions with peers and instructors.
- Two-way lectures stream from an actual video studio at HD quality and have video switchers similar to broadcast news for the most professional and effective presentation.
- Online video content is available prior to the start of the live course for elevated preparation.
- Prescheduled live office hours with instructors that correspond to the online video modules are available.
- An extensive participant manual that follows each lecture, slide by slide, with additional information for continued study is provided.
STANDARD OF CARE
In order for a practice to be competent in providing safe and effective minimal or moderate oral sedation, the standard is to obtain training in a multitude of areas, including but not limited to:
- Airway management
- Patient assessment
- Drug-drug interactions
Dentists should plan on investing several days of time to study and absorb all the materials. Additionally, proficient skills and the highest standard of care for patient safety should require training for the entire clinical staff.
AS GOOD AS BEING THERE IN PERSON
Most regulatory dental bodies require participation in live course studies to qualify and renew permits, licenses, and certificates. ILS education fulfills these requirements when the program includes 2-way interaction capabilities and verification of attentiveness.
Through ILS learning, it’s possible to qualify or recertify permits, licenses, and certificates from anywhere. In many ways, ILS learning is superior to being there in person.
HISTORY OF DISTANCE LEARNING
Distance learning is nothing new; in fact, it’s been around since the 18th century. One of the first people to offer remote education was a teacher named Caleb Phillips, who, in 1728, provided shorthand lessons by mail. Thanks to human ingenuity and expanding technology, distance learning has transformed since then. With capabilities for an interactive, live experience, learners and teachers can now communicate in real-time and even immerse themselves in skilled, technical procedures capable of blending the physical and digital worlds together.
With the pandemic, streaming education in dental schools has been utilized with the aid of technology to further communication while in-person learning wasn’t possible.
BENEFITS OF ILS EDUCATION
Streaming technology takes remote learning a step further by delivering content directly to computers and mobile devices anywhere an internet connection is available. Travel isn’t required, offsetting the need to take time off. ILS technology provides cutting-edge education in dentistry directly to you, wherever you are.
ILS education enjoys the following benefits:
- Cost-effectiveness. The ex-pense of CE can be considerable. With ILS, there is no need to miss work, leave home or the office, or incur additional costs from travel. Programs that utilize ILS can help one save a significant amount of money throughout a professional career.
- Time management. Traveling for training and educational courses can interrupt patient scheduling and, thus, decrease revenue. Time-efficient ILS learning requires little to no time away from your dental practice, allowing for continued productivity with limited interruptions.
- Learning retention. ILS learners can, after the training is completed, revisit the presentation and materials, including interactions and questions from participants, for better retention. Through ILS learning, participants interact with the instructor and their peers in real-time, which previously was only possible through in-person learning.
INCREASED ENGAGEMENT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
With ILS technology, remote learning is enhanced with the use of real-time dialogue, allowing for:
- Immediate feedback. With instant feedback capabilities, the instructor can respond to the needs of the participants and modify the presentation in real-time.
- Maximum engagement. Intermittent polling increases the focus and attention of the participants throughout the course. Immediate feedback and audience engagement ensure participants understand the current topic before the instructor moves to the next topic.
- Effective teacher/student engagement. Participants can submit questions during the session while behind-the-scenes faculty moderates questions for the instructor. The moderators can answer common questions immediately or have them presented to the instructor during Q and A time or during scheduled “office hours” with the instructor.
- Peer engagement. Using the chat features of ILS technology, participants can interact with their peers and learn from each other’s questions. Icebreaker questions posed at the beginning of the course and during breaks encourage discussion and camaraderie.
STATE MODIFICATIONS FOR CE REQUIREMENTS DUE TO COVID-19
Most state regulations have long considered interactive webinars equivalent to live education for mandatory CE purposes. However, there was often confusion surrounding live webinars with prerecorded online learning by dentists.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the Dental Board issued a temporary waiver allowing distance learning, or online education, to fulfill CE requirements due to the unavailability of in-person CE events.
Many other states also temporarily adjusted the requirements for in-person learning. Now they are becoming aware of the value of ILS education and are making simple requirements to ensure the value. For instance, Washington state proposed that online learning platforms that include active questioning count as full credit toward license renewal.
Continuing dental education has a significant impact on dentists’ skills, thereby influencing their overall productivity, success, and revenue. With ILS education, more dentists can obtain advanced training in various aspects of dental care and deliver an elevated level of care to their patients.
As dental professionals, we are seeing technology play an expanding role in the success of our professional careers. As these technologies become better understood and utilized, interactive coursework and training will become more vital than ever to maintain and expand a business. While the age gap can factor into one’s comfort with technology, the ability of ILS learning to increase productivity and revenue with little up-front cost appeals to multiple generations.
With many of us now returning to our pre-pandemic schedules, ILS education, by offering more time at home with fewer expenses, shows real staying power and is transforming remote education as we know it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Silverman is a globally recognized lecturer, educator, author, and patient rights advocate and the founder and president of DOCS Education. He has appeared in front of 28 dental boards to advocate for the right of dentists to provide sedation in an environment of safe and reasonable regulations. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and believer in lifelong continuing education, Dr. Silverman continues to champion for safe and effective minimal and moderate dental sedation. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the website docseducation.com.
Disclosure: Dr. Silverman is an owner of Strategic Dentistry LLC, which does business as DOCS Education, but received no compensation for writing this article.