The impact on education services over the last 18 months has become a subject of great interest for many researchers worldwide, particularly due to the exceptional situation generated by the COVID-19 crisis.1 Accelerating the transition from face-to-face learning to online has completely changed the shape of normal teaching practice.2 Many training academies and companies have been forced to adopt new methods of providing their courses and even redesigning their delivery process to actively adopt to and cope with the realities of the pandemic.3 As a whole, communities are accepting the changes and adapting – but I believe these changes need careful balancing! We must ensure we avoid the pitfall of ‘maintaining the distance’ and losing face-to-face learning altogether.
The benefits of e-learning
The literature is flooded with the benefits of e-learning and how it may positively complement traditional medical teaching.4,5 Some pieces of literature are even suggesting that it may lead to a higher outcome regarding learning progress and competence acquisition.6 Literature provides results in favour of using online learning in terms of its usefulness and positive influence on delegate performance and the fact that it can be accessed from anywhere at any time, and it’s universal.5 This may make it a win-win for most training companies and the trainees.
Aesthetics is rapidly changing, and therefore continuous professional development (CPD) remains vitally important, yet since the outbreak of COVID-19 large global companies (that have a strong focus on education) may want to continue with distance learning due to the evident benefits it affords the company. There is no doubt that this format and its unique attributes provides an enormous flexibility in terms of time management and allows for widen access and increased diversity globally.2 I believe that for our specialty, one of the biggest advantages is that it allows for the possibility of using highly experienced professionals and experts who may not have the time to physically attend an event in person to deliver global training to vast audiences, saving time, money and resources.
Although research to date has shown that e-learning is an excellent tool, there has been research recognising inhibiting factors affecting e-learning, such as distractions and time management, difficulty staying motivated, adapting to unfamiliar technology and technical issues.2 This is why I believe using solely e-learning may be detrimental to aesthetic practitioners, despite its benefits.
We cannot lose the human aspect
The debate of traditional vs. distant learning will continue in the literature for years to come no doubt, and despite the evidence of e-learning’s effectiveness, I believe we still must strive for human contact. Working as a nurse lecturer and trainer, I’m of the opinion that face-to-face training is still the best experience a learner can have. Meaningful learning is experiential, it leads to understanding and the ability to make sense of things.8 Yes, we know that learning is an innate element of human development, and thus the delivery of the education should not affect our ability, but training companies and facilitators have a significant contribution to make in enabling learners to learn effectively and efficiently through experience, especially in the field of aesthetics.5 Hands-on training is vital in our industry, as it provides the perfect simulation of the actual in-clinic treatment, where potentially delegates will be working unaided.
The comprehensive measures of social distancing, restricted social connections, and loss of routine potentially also have a huge negative effect on our social networks and mental wellbeing. In an already lonely career where practitioners often work in isolation, the need for being face-to-face with other colleagues is critical.4
So, what should we do?
At my training academy, as well as many others in the medical aesthetics field, blended learning has become the norm for us. Blended learning can be defined as combining face-to-face education and internet mobile-based learning.3 We choose this approach as we believe it provides a number of processes such as pre-learning and evaluation of the teaching process in the web environment with the opportunities offered by online environments, thus enabling this period to be directed to more efficient education/training processes by shortening the face-to-face learning process.3,4
By blending both e-learning and traditional teaching, research has shown that both tutors and students cope better as both have the opportunity and enough time to deepen their studies, activities and experiences.3,4,7 I believe that by combining what we already did with what we now must do, we can allow students to master knowledge and gain comprehension outside of class, and focus on application and synthesis in class.