How COVID-19 has affected online continuing dental education
LEIPZIG, Germany: In recent years, the dental industry’s approach to continuing education (CE) has often been focused on in-person learning opportunities at congresses, symposia and the like. This didactic avenue is, unfortunately, one of many areas of the dental profession to have been drastically affected by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Typical of dentistry’s innovative spirit, many dental companies and institutions have quickly shifted to alternative methods of teaching, and dental professionals have responded with enthusiasm.
In a recent study published in the European Journal of Dental Education, researchers from the Department of Prosthodontics of Peking University in Beijing in China sought to measure how the ongoing pandemic had impacted the delivery of live dental CE in China. Their findings indicated a dramatic transferral of CE from a physical environment to an online one: whereas only 28.6% of the dental institutions included in the study offered online CE prior to the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown, this figure rose to 100% once physical distancing restrictions were in place.
According to the study’s authors, online CE courses have been demonstrated through previous analysis in the medical literature to be just as effective as in-person education is. In addition, they posited that the eagerness of dental professionals to participate in digitally based learning indicates its great potential as an educational tool of the future. With this in mind, it is informative to see how the dental world has responded.
Dental companies turn to e-learning platforms
Though the study’s findings were limited to China, the spate of online educational platform launches and events in recent months has confirmed that many of dentistry’s leading companies are adapting to the new learning landscape.
Dental companies such as mectron and KaVo Dental have taken the opportunity to launch their own e-learning solutions, with the goal of giving dental professionals instantaneous access to timely, informative and interactive educational resources.
“Online webinars have become an essential pillar for continuing education within the dental community,” Dr Frank Emde, KaVo Dental’s director of professional education and of clinical affairs, explained to Dental Tribune International (DTI) upon the company’s May release of its own educational platform, KaVo Academy. “Webinars have been a growing industry for some years now, and there is strong demand for these free-of-charge, continuously available training sessions.”
Online learning events prove successful
During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, a number of other companies with established online learning forums have held webinar-focused events to replace those that were originally scheduled to take place offline. By and large, these events have proved to be extremely successful in terms of participant numbers and have often enjoyed an increased reach, highlighting the dental community’s growing demand for these educational options.
In an audacious move back in March, CURADEN announced that it would host a week full of webinars on its CURADEN Academy to allow dental professionals to obtain CE credits from home. Over at the Straumann Campus, two major online events—the Straumann 2020 VIRTUAL Immediacy Symposium and the Immediacy Essentials Symposium—marked Straumann’s continued expansion into the e-learning domain, a development that had already commenced before the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
As the pandemic continued to lead to the postponement and cancellation of in-person dental events worldwide, companies increasingly turned to the digital sphere to host online congresses—often with great results. Towards the end of May, the Ivoclar Vivadent International Expert Symposium attracted more than 16,000 registrants from 126 countries, while almost 10,000 people registered for 3Shape’s free-of-charge 24H Global Symposium, a 24-hour webinar marathon that featured 30 online lectures, last month. GC Europe held its first International MI Congress online on 20 June under the theme “Minimum intervention dentistry for your life”, recording approximately 5,500 registrations for the one-day event.
It is not just dental companies that have turned to online platforms to deliver CE either. Last month, FDI World Dental Federation, the principal representative body for more than a million dentists worldwide, launched its own webinar platform, FDI Oral Health Campus. The purpose of the platform is to provide new, relevant and broad-ranging CE opportunities of specific benefit to FDI’s members.
Dental Tribune joins in on the fun
Of course, DTI itself must be mentioned too in relation to current approaches to dental CE, for multiple reasons. All of the events and company campus webinars reported here were organised and hosted in collaboration with DTI, which utilised its broad network to reach all parts of the global dental community and help make these initiatives a success. These educational company models were developed in line with the longstanding success of DTI’s own CE platform, DT Study Club. Through this platform, DTI has so far hosted 34 live webinars during the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown period, offering CE opportunities across a wide range of topics. In total, the company has hosted an astounding 284 webinars over the past four months, with many more already set to come in the future.
“Continuing education is one of the three pillars of the DTI portfolio, and e-learning has seen the strongest growth among our many businesses over the past several years. We noticed this trend even before the pandemic,” said DTI CEO Torsten Oemus. “However, online education in dentistry really gained momentum with the COVID-19 outbreak and the related restrictions on travel and events. The need for online education became apparent and prompted even the slow adopters to consider this option. With our years of experience and unique global network, DTI was well positioned as a partner for some of the major dental companies to bring their events online successfully. The registration numbers speak for themselves and clearly show that online CE events are not a compromised solution for cancelled live events, but a real and maybe even better alternative in today’s digitalised world.”
“Continuing education is one of the three pillars of the DTI portfolio, and e-learning has seen the strongest growth among our many businesses over the past several years” – Torsten Oemus, DTI CEO
What does the future look like?
With the pandemic still unfolding, obtaining CE credits through webinars and other e-learning opportunities will likely continue to be the norm, rather than the exception. It is a reality that the next generation of dentists are already coming to terms with, however, given that many recent graduates have experienced their commencement ceremonies virtually through online platforms such as YouTube, Zoom and Facebook Live.