A virtual classroom for undergraduate periodontology: a pilot study

Eur J Dent Educ. 2001 Nov;5(4):139-47. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0579.2001.50401.x.


The Integrated Distributed Learning Environments or virtual classrooms constitute a new promising structure in education of health care personnel. A virtual classroom was developed aiming to teach periodontology to an international group of 28 dental students using a problem-based learning (PBL) approach. The course was web-based and included synchronous and asynchronous communication, on-line libraries and multimedia material. Students were organised in 4 independent groups and each group was appointed a tutor. The results of the study indicate that one of the most positive effects students experienced was competence in using the computer. They also rated highly the use of multimedia for learning of clinical procedures. It was found that web boards and email were too slow to allow group work in the virtual classroom. Real time communication programs were found to be superior for problem discussion and hypothesis formulation. However, email and the web board played a significant role during certain steps of the PBL method. The students expressed a positive attitude for the combined use of network-based learning and problem-based education. Our present experience suggests that distance learning should be organised with a mixture of different media, allowing communication of knowledge and skills between the resources and the students, as well as cooperation between the students. Computer literacy among teachers and students is limited and should be enhanced. Finally, personal contact between the resource persons and the students before the distant learning course commences helps the learning process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Communication
  • Computer Communication Networks*
  • Computer Literacy
  • Education, Distance / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Libraries, Dental
  • Multimedia
  • Online Systems
  • Periodontics / education*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Students, Dental
  • Teaching / methods
  • User-Computer Interface*