Implementation and Evaluation of a Virtual Elective in Otolaryngology in the Time of COVID-19

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Aug 11;194599820951150. doi: 10.1177/0194599820951150. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To develop and evaluate a virtual otolaryngology medical student elective created during the COVID-19 crisis with the intention of teaching the basic tenets of otolaryngology and increasing exposure to the specialty.

Study design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Emory University School of Medicine.

Methods: A 1-week virtual otolaryngology curriculum was offered to third- and fourth-year medical students that centered on the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation's handbook Primary Care in Otolaryngology (fourth edition). The course covered a variety of topics and was conducted remotely via online video conferencing software. We applied multiple teaching modalities and surveyed students regarding the effectiveness of the course. Mixed methods analysis was employed to analyze the course data.

Results: Twelve students participated; 67% reported their baseline precourse understanding of otolaryngology in the "poor-fair" range. After the course, 92% of students reported increased understanding, with 42% and 58% reporting "good" and "very good" understanding, respectively. Following completion of the course, posttest scores on summative assessments were significantly higher than pretest scores (P < .001). Ninety-two percent of students reported either "increased" or "greatly increased" interest in otolaryngology postcourse. Qualitative survey results revealed students' appreciation of course organization, formative assessments, and case-based learning.

Conclusions: An otolaryngology elective administered through a virtual format can be effective at providing an educational experience and garnering interest in the field. Positive exposure to otolaryngology can increase medical students' interest in pursuing the specialty and expand their general knowledge of consultation, diagnosis, and management in otolaryngology.

Keywords: COVID-19; medical education; otolaryngology; remote education.