In response to the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, residency and fellowship programs transitioned to virtual instruction to deliver didactics and continue with medical education. The efficacy of such a fully online learning environment, however, remains unknown. To investigate its impact on medical education, this study surveyed hematology/oncology fellows at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on their attitudes regarding the online-based lecture program. Fellows were emailed a 19-question survey with questions on demographics, ease of technical access to the online platform, level of comfort with participation, knowledge acquisition, wellness, and COVID-19-specific coverage. A free-text question soliciting ways to improve upon online learning was also included. The response rate was 71% (30/42). Most respondents reported easy/very easy accessibility to the online environment. Seventy-seven percent of the participants did not experience a technical issue. Seventy percent felt comfortable/very comfortable with participating in the conference. Thirty-seven percent felt comfortable/very comfortable with actively offering an answer to questions during the interactive board review session. Eighty-seven percent would have been more willing to offer an answer during the board review session if an anonymous poll format was utilized. Sixty-three percent felt they learned the same amount as they typically do during an in-person session. Thirty-three percent reported they were less focused as compared with an in-person session. One hundred percent of the participants had their questions answered, either at all times (87%) or sometimes (13%). Sixty percent experienced a change in social interactions as compared with an in-person session. Fifty-four percent reported that it was easy/very to balance online attendance despite personal/family commitments. One hundred percent appreciated the flexibility of the online learning environment. Ninety percent felt safer at home attending these lectures compared with receiving these lectures in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, most fellows felt comfortable with the transition to a fully online learning environment. Strategies to encourage active participation, enhance social interaction, and provide additional flexibility are still needed.
Keywords: COVID-19; Hematology; Medical education; Medical trainees; Oncology; Online learning.