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      An evaluation of remote communication versus face-to-face in clinical dental education.

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          Distance learning and internet-based delivery of educational content are becoming very popular as an alternative to real face-to-face delivery. Clinical-based discussions still remain greatly face-to-face despite the advancement of remote communication and internet sharing technology. In this study we have compared three communication modalities between a learner and educator: audio and video using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) alone [AV]; audio and video VoIP with the addition of a three dimensional virtual artefact [AV3D] and physical face-to-face [FTF]. Clinical case discussions based on fictitious patients were held between a 'learner' and an 'expert' using the three communication modalities. The learner presented a clinical scenario to the experts, with the aid of a prop (partially dentate cast, digitised for AV3D), to obtain advice on the management of the clinical case. Each communication modality was tested in timed exercises in a random order among one of three experts (senior clinical restorative staff) and a learner (from a cohort of 15 senior clinical undergraduate students) all from the School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield. All learners and experts used each communication modality in turn with no prior training. Video recording and structured analysis were used to ascertain learner behaviour and levels of interactivity. Evaluation questionnaires were completed by experts and learners immediately after the experiment to ascertain effectiveness of information exchange and barriers/facilitators to communication. The video recordings showed that students were more relaxed with AV and AV3D than FTF (p = 0.01). The evaluation questionnaires showed that students felt they could provide (p = 0.03) and obtain (p = 0.003) more information using the FTF modality, followed by AV and then AV3D. Experts also ranked FTF better than AV and AV3D for providing (p = 0.012) and obtaining (p = 0) information to/from the expert. Physical face-to-face learning is a more effective communication modality for clinical case-based discussions between a learner and an expert. Remote, internet-based discussions enable a more relaxed discussion environment. The effectiveness of 3D supported internet-based communication is dependent upon a robust and simple to use interface, along with some prior training.

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          Author and article information

          British dental journal
          Springer Science and Business Media LLC
          Mar 23 2012
          : 212
          : 6
          [1 ] University of Sheffield, Academic Unit of Restorative Dentistry, School of Clinical Dentistry, Claremont Crescent, Sheffield, S10 2TA.


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