Short Research Report

An innovative, remote supported problem-based learning model in a South African medical curriculum during the COVID‑19 pandemic

J Jayakumar, F Amien, G Gunston, L de Paulo, S Crawford-Browne, G Doyle, K Bugarith

Abstract


The sudden transition to Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) during the COVID-19 crisis hindered small group student learning, including Supported Problem-based Learning (SPBL), in the undergraduate medical curriculum at the University of Cape Town. Consequently, a socially just and equitable online Remote SPBL model was needed to promote learning, social cohesion, track student progress, and render emotional containment to students experiencing crisis-related anxiety and social isolation.

Remote SPBL was conducted asynchronously using the “Forums” tool within the Learning Management System, namely VULA, to accommodate students with limited internet access. Some SPBL steps were excluded to accommodate the decreased available learning time which may have compromised the SPBL process.

SPBL facilitators trained in online facilitation, served as a bridge between students and course convenors ensuring the early detection of academic and non-academic barriers to learning, and enabling timely support. Thus, Remote SPBL offered students’ academic and social support at a time of great change, while maintaining the core elements of the curriculum and enabling the integration of disciplinary knowledge. However, the asynchronous approach and non-academic obstacles to accessing online learning limited effective group interaction and collaborative learning. Based on the experiences of the model, course convenors will consider integrating SPBL into a blended model in future and will include all the SPBL steps to enhance student learning using both synchronous and asynchronous approaches. 

This model, that draws on simple web-based learning platforms, could easily be adopted, and effectively utilized in low-resourced educational and healthcare settings due to its easy and cost-effective approach.


Authors' affiliations

J Jayakumar, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

F Amien, Division of Public Health Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G Gunston, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

L de Paulo, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

S Crawford-Browne, Primary Health Care Directorate, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G Doyle, Education Development Unit, Department of Health Sciences Education, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

K Bugarith, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2021;13(3):163-166. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2021.v13i3.1526

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-10-07
Date published: 2021-10-07

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