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Virtual medical school

A revolutionary approach to training tomorrow’s doctors using the latest advances in e-learning and technology is being explored in an ambitious initiative involving all five Scottish medical schools.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) today announced its backing for a feasibility study on the shared concept of an International Virtual Medical School (IVIMEDS). A virtual school would pool expertise and make the most effective use of new learning technology to give students the highest quality medical education in a flexible way.

The medical schools of the Universities of St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow are committed to collaboration in exploring the possibilities and potential of the virtual school. They have been joined by leading medical schools in the UK, North America and Australasia who are lending their support.

The study will look at how the Scottish medical schools can collaborate in e-learning; the sustainability of the IVIMEDS approach within the settings of the five Scottish schools; the e- learning materials and intellectual properties available within the five Scottish medical schools; and the possible collaboration with international academic partners.

John Sizer, Chief Executive of SHEFC said, “I am pleased to announce an award of £90,000 from SHEFC to support this feasibility study. It is an exciting development for the future of medical education in Scotland. The study will investigate whether the project is academically and financially viable and whether getting involved in IVIMEDS would be in the interests of the development of medical education in Scotland and internationally. I am very pleased that all five Scottish medical schools are collaborating on this project which I am sure will in time bring benefits to Scottish higher education.”

Health Minister, Susan Deacon, said: “The potential benefits of e-learning are great. I am delighted that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and Scotland’s medical schools are leading the way in exploring this huge potential. The sharing of international medical knowledge, the breaking down of geographical barriers to learning, and more on- the-job learning are just some of the exciting possibilities. But we don’t just want to use new technology to train tomorrow’s health professionals, important as that is. We are also committed to improving the skills of the staff of today. That’s why next week I will announce a broad package of new learning tools and opportunities for NHS staff here in Scotland.”

Sir Alan Langlands, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Dundee, who are leading the collaboration, said, “The development of IVIMEDS provides a unique opportunity to achieve greater coherence in Scotland’s medical schools, building bridges across professional and institutional boundaries and developing leading edge work in distance learning and continuous professional development. The reputation of Scottish medical education and the Centre for Medical Education in Dundee is respected across the world – this project will keep us in the lead and ensure that we make effective use of new technologies in our education programmes.”

Professor Ronald Harden, Director of the Centre for Medical Education explains how IVIMEDS could work: “A virtual medical school would not replace face to face on-site learning but would blend with these approaches using paper-based as well as internet and DVDs to get the best out of all. It would ensure that the right learning is available for the student at the right time and in the right place. Students may be based in hospitals or at home in addition to medical schools. E- learning will encourage students to take more responsibility for directing their own learning. It will provide opportunities for students to individualise their learning to their own needs – exploring areas of special interest in more depth and calling up supporting material where necessary. The emphasis will be on interaction with the content material and explicit learning outcomes. Peer to peer learning and the development of a ‘virtual learning community’ will help avoid the ‘lonely learner’ syndrome and there will also be unique opportunities to work in groups which cross institutional, national and cultural boundaries. Students will have access to the views of a range of experts in a field via audio links and visuals and the possibility of video streaming. But face to face learning will also play an important part including clinical placements.”

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS

For further information, please contact either Katie Robertson, Communications Officer, SHEFC, tel 0131 313 6683 or email krobertson@sfc.ac.uk or Maureen Smith, Head of Communications, SHEFC, tel 0131 313 6512 or email msmith@sfc.ac.uk.

 Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Knowledge have added their financial backing to initial parts of this study. The Enterprise Network through a range of initiatives such as this is committed to positioning Scotland among the global leaders in e- learning development.

 The feasibility study will start shortly and will take around six months to complete.

 The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) distributes public money for teaching and research to twenty- one higher education institutions in Scotland. For further information please visit www.shefc.ac.uk

ENDS

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: virtual med school/standrews/chg/19oct2001

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