A major challenge in teaching medicine in a rural setting is that long geographical distances separate students, instructors, and educational resources. Clinical schools within the University of Sydney Medical Program are geographically dispersed and face similar challenges. As a result, a virtual ophthalmology clinic (VOC) was developed (Succar et al., 2013) and it is being delivered online to enable equitable access and consistency in the foundations of ophthalmology education for rural-based students. The program allows students to sharpen their clinical reasoning skills by formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan on virtual patients with simulated conditions. To evaluate the educational effectiveness of VOC, a randomized controlled trial was conducted with the University of Sydney medical students (n = 188). The pre- and post-test and student satisfaction questionnaire were administered. Twelve months later, a follow-up test was conducted to determine the long-term retention rate of graduates. On the basis of a statistically significant improvement in academic performance and highly positive student feedback, it became clear that the online delivery of VOC can serve as a model for higher education institutions creating an all-inclusive learning environment experienced by rural students and staff regardless of location and distance, while making a positive impact on learning.
Succar, T. and Grigg, J. (2019), "The Role of Educational Technology in Promoting the Inclusion of Rural Clinical Schools for Ophthalmology Teaching Using Virtual Patients", Hoffman, J., Blessinger, P. and Makhanya, M. (Ed.) Strategies for Fostering Inclusive Classrooms in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Equity and Inclusion (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 167-181. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2055-364120190000016014Download as .RIS
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