Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL): Transforming Healthcare Education
Published: 03 February 2019
Published: 03 February 2019
In the view of Gupta (2017), technology is ‘cool’ and increasingly a part of students' lives. Yet, as the demand for technology enhanced learning (TEL) increases, many teachers and facilitators find themselves playing catch up with the vast array of new technologies that promise to revolutionise healthcare education.
In the view of Moran et al. (2018), new students are now so deeply immersed in technology that they are less able to function in traditional classroom settings, leaving their trainers faced with the often-daunting task of providing the most appropriate technology-based learning environment to meet their needs.
Virtual reality, augmented reality and mobile learning are just a few examples of how technology is becoming embedded in modern teaching methods. It’s a trend bolstered by the view that it’s no longer acceptable to learn on live patients using the long-standing teaching method of 'see one, do one, teach one'.
So, which of the many new technologies are the most helpful in supporting a student’s development, and which ones should be approached with caution?
Guze (2015) suggests the following technologies are most often used to enhance learning:
Bullock and Webb (2015) summarise these recent advances by placing the wide variety of technology on offer into three distinct categories:
Many of these technologies are proving particularly useful in flipped classrooms, in which students review an online lecture before coming to the classroom for an interactive session. This allows more time to be spent on exploring complex issues, or in active discussion to deepen learning.
E-learning and simulations also form part of a blended approach to learning (DH 2011), with simulation, in particular, fulfilling a number of educational goals. Key advantages of simulation are that it:
In theory, computer technologies offer great advantages to today’s learners. They can make knowledge acquisition much easier, improve decision-making, enhance skill coordination and provide an engaging educational environment. Many also have the added benefit of being able to assess competence and provide students at any level with real time feedback on their progress.
Guze (2015) suggests that some of the key benefits of technology-assisted learning can be summarised by the following points:
Whilst there’s little doubt that new and emerging educational technologies have a lot to offer, there are also reasons for caution.
As the Department of Health (2011) points out, technological applications raise confidentiality issues and need appropriate monitoring along with moderation, which can be labour intensive and expensive. The very word ‘enhanced’ also implies ‘adding to’ or making an improvement to an existing way of doing things, which may not be appropriate or accurate.
Bullock and Webb (2015) also highlight three important reasons why teachers should be cautious about embracing technology. They are all areas that are also currently lacking in valid and reliable research:
As educators are trying to keep up with the burgeoning array of technological advances, students’ expectations are getting higher and more demanding each day. For Saffari et al. (2014), this highlights the need for the mastery of educational technology to be a recognised competence for all educators. In the same way, it’s becoming clear that good quality research cannot keep up with the number of new educational technologies that need to be evaluated.
In the view of Moran et al. (2018), all health care educators should be called on to play an active role in determining exactly how technology can benefit healthcare education. This means that educators also have to consider if the many benefits of technology-assisted learning actually outweigh the downsides of social isolation associated with classroom-independent learning. Whilst some educators attempt to overcome this by introducing yet more technology in the form of online communication and networking such as blogs, there is a real danger of generating technology overload.
With this in mind, Guze (2015) reminds us again that the use of technology in education should always support learning and not replace face to face teaching. The challenge, then, is to use these new technologies to empower the learning experience without losing the human touch.
Further reading: Innovative Teaching Strategies for Nurse Educators
In addition to facilitating the basic acquisition of knowledge and improved decision-making, educational technologies have the particular advantage of not being bound by time and space. This makes them ideal educational tools to:
(Macy Foundation 2015)
The technology used in healthcare education is set to expand even further in the years to come and digital literacy is no longer the domain of a few specialists.
Evidence gathered by the Royal College of Nursing (2019) suggests that people who have better digital literacy also tend to have more positive attitudes towards adopting new technologies. As a result, it’s now broadly accepted that everyone who works in health and social care must have basic training in the use of educational technology.
That said, technological applications are only a means to an end and should not be seen as a substitute for other methods of learning, but rather, as a way of providing enhanced learning as part of a managed and integrated educational process (Department of Health 2011). It’s a delicate balance that needs care to maintain, and it can mean saying ‘no’ to new technologies just as much as it can mean saying ‘yes’.