Eastman Dental Institute


Covid, education and continuing professional development

29 May 2020

Online learning

By Professor Albert Leung, Chair of Dental Education, Director of CPD and the Restorative Dental Practice MSc

Covid-19 posed unprecedented challenges by shutting down face-to-face teaching at UCL very abruptly. Fortunately at UCL Eastman we were already relatively used to delivering teaching online. The first online programme began virtual classes less than 24 hours after the University lockdown, and the day after, we started delivering the Restorative Dental Practice Masters programme online, keeping the momentum going, to the delight of many of our students.  

Since then, we have used different systems (BlackBoard Collaborate, Zoom, Teams, Google) delivering degree bearing programmes as well as many high quality, bespoke CPD webinars as part of a comprehensive programme-delivery strategy which has been very interesting and innovative. 

Our free CPD has included talks on laser dentistry, periodontology, sports dentistry, dental nursing and a suite of guest lectures on advanced aesthetics. We have also moved taster days online, so that prospective students can continue to sample our renowned programmes. 

As Head of CPD, part of my role is to oversee the delivery of the above: it has been challenging but really exciting. If you told me three months ago that this is what I would be doing as Professor of Dental Education, I would not have believed this at all but we are where we are, open to challenges and different opportunities where they present themselves.
In my other role as Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, I have taken part in webinars where the Deans of the Royal Surgical Colleges have come together to conduct some extremely popular and well subscribed biweekly webinars. These have informed dentists both at home and abroad of the many aspects of the challenges of Covid-19 to the clinical practice of dentistry, postgraduate dental education, infection prevention and control, aerosol generating procedures, managing emergency patients and the wellbeing of the dental team. At the time of writing, I have represented RCSI in all four “meeting the Deans” seminars to date. The last webinar attracted over 4,500 registrants. 
On-line learning in the context of Covid-19 has been very effective, because the education paradigm has been shifted to practical delivery of programmes in the comfort of the participants’ own home, where learning takes place in a relatively relaxed, congenial and unthreatened environment.   

There are of course issues with on-line delivery of teaching, particularly in clinical dentistry, where practice and the practical application of skills are crucial. There is of course no substituting some aspects of face-to-face clinical skills teaching and learning, and the clinical treatment of patients. 

However, given the current situation, most teachers and students have all been extremely flexible in embracing technologies to effect continuous activities during the enforce lock-down. There is much potential to develop these environments further, so watch this space. 

Find out more about UCL Eastman's response to the pandemic