People who are easily anxious may want to divert their eyes as there have been new developments in the field of dentistry. Dentists are now able to learn how to replace missing teeth through correspondence courses. Professionals like doctors, veterinarians, and dentists all over the world are now gaining qualifications through distance learning programs from universities in Britain.
Some of the distance-learning courses being offered by the universities of London and Edinburgh are teaching different kinds of skills such as the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases as well as administering anaesthetics. The University of Edinburgh is also set to offer surgical sciences to doctors who will be able to practice on online three-dimensional virtual patients starting next year. According to Jake Broadhurst, e-learning business development manager at Edinburgh, students can kill their virtual patients over and over again, sometimes doing it intentionally just to ensure that they arrive at the correct diagnosis.
The growing number of distance courses may raise questions but it has enabled professionals living in areas where career development may be difficult to pursue further education. Studying at home has become a more affordable and convenient option compared to moving to the UK to study for an extended period.
Universities, however, clarify that they are not teaching professions from scratch. Instead, they are offering specializations for qualified professionals.
Distance learning has drastically changed since the University of London established its first correspondence course in 1858. Students used to receive rock samples and 100-piece chemistry sets complete with Bunsen burners and microscopes through post. The Open University’s biology department even mailed Siamese fighting fish to students for dissection. Nowadays, students are more likely to receive a DVD containing virtual microscopes and test tubes.
Advancements in technology made it possible for medical subjects to be studied through distance learning. Veterinary students can now discuss cases by sharing test results, scans, and ideas through web-based discussion boards. Tutorial groups can discuss issues face-to-face through webcams. Geology, dentistry, and medical students can also analyze computer-generated images taken by cameras dropped into volcanoes, mouths, and blood vessels. However, technological aids may not be necessary for every practical course. Some of these courses focus on theoretical concepts such as statistical methods for tracking outbreaks of animal diseases or learning the economics of running a livestock farm in Africa.
Other courses are more well-suited to distance learning. Dentists who are learning medical imaging techniques can easily replicate digital scans using computers.
The universities agree that technology has its limitations. Software cannot teach doctors how to perform brain surgery. Additionally, most courses require students to attend yearly intensive residential practical sessions in the UK or a dedicated college elsewhere.