Challenges and opportunities from the COVID-19 pandemic in medical education: a qualitative study

BMC Med Educ. 2021 Apr 29;21(1):247. doi: 10.1186/s12909-021-02682-z.


Introduction: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many higher education and health centers have faced challenges. Educational leaders have tried to manage the new situation, but the human infrastructure was not ready for such an event. This study aims to explain the challenges and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic for medical education.

Method: This qualitative study used conventional content analysis to collect data from face-to-face and semi-structured interviews. The interviews continued until data saturation was reached. The participants were 12 students and 14 faculty members at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. To ensure data rigor, we used member checks, peer checks and an external observer.

Results: Three main categories and 15 subcategories were extracted. The findings showed that four subcategories, e.g. perception on feasibility of e-learning, standardizing of e-learning, dedicated teaching, and networking and interdisciplinary collaborations, affected the development of medical e-learning. The main opportunities from the COVID-19 pandemic for medical education were classified into five subcategories: attitudes to e-learning and adaptability, preventing students' separation from the educational environment, documentation and monitoring education, take control of own learning, and increasing perceived usefulness. The main challenges were divided into four subcategories, e.g. noncompliance with virtual classroom etiquette, inadequate interactions, time limitations, and infrastructure defects and problems. Finally, participants believed that methods of evaluation in e-learning were more suitable for diagnosis and formative evaluations. Generally, two subcategories were extracted, e.g. formative and summative.

Conclusion: Medical schools have necessarily moved towards e-learning to compensate for the interruption in classroom education, such that traditional classes have been replaced with e-learning. These rapid, extensive changes in teaching and learning approaches have consequences for medical schools.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Challenges; Medical education; Opportunities.