Medical Student Education Roadblock Due to COVID-19: Virtual Radiology Core Clerkship to the Rescue

Acad Radiol. 2020 Oct;27(10):1461-1466. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2020.07.020. Epub 2020 Jul 24.


Rationale and objectives: Medical schools were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in suspension of all in-person educational activities, and leaving clinical clerkships on hold indefinitely. A virtual curriculum and novel teaching methods were needed to fulfill curricular requirements. We developed a comprehensive virtual radiology clerkship and evaluated the efficacy of this novel method of teaching.

Materials and methods: A 4-week virtual radiology clerkship was designed to accommodate medical students who had not yet completed the required clerkship. The design included online flipped classroom modules, large group didactic lectures, and small group homeroom activities. Student performance was assessed via a standardized online final exam. Feedback from students was collected using online surveys. Student performance was compared to the in-person radiology clerkship.

Results: One hundred and eleven medical students were enrolled in the virtual radiology clerkship. Final exam scores were similar to the in-person clerkship. Students indicated that small group homeroom activities had the highest overall satisfaction. Students recognized enthusiastic teachers regardless of class format. Exceptional course content and organization were also noted. Course weaknesses included didactic lecture content which was repetitive or too advanced, the limited opportunity to build personal connections with faculty, and scheduling conflicts with other competing school activities.

Conclusion: A completely virtual radiology core clerkship can be a successful educational experience for medical students during a time when remote learning is required. A small group learning environment is most successful for student engagement. Personal connections between faculty and students can be challenging in a virtual course.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Medical education; Pandemic; Radiology.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Curriculum
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Students, Medical*