30 April 2020
The treasury of learning materials: digitalisation and high technology are the vision of medical education in Pécs
Interview with Dr. Miklós Nyitrai, Dean of the UP MS on the development of the School's digital curriculum called PotePedia
PotePedia is a digital project initiated by the Medical School in Pécs and unique in Hungary, in which, in addition to a high level of professional guidance and support, an up-to-date online knowledge base and information network supporting medical training is implemented with the active participation of students. Regarding its content and appearance, it aims to provide an excellent resource for students to study.
PotePedia aims to meet student expectations by making up-to-date repositories of knowledge describing and accompanying medical education available through state-of-the-art data communication tools. In this way, the knowledge material, which is often changing due to the growing number of developments, and research and methodological developments, can reach the participants of education the fastest.
The development thus fulfils the challenge and goal that the preparation of our students is not hindered by the system of traditional, analogue knowledge transfer consisting of several steps.
All this is not done by leaving quality and reliability behind. On the contrary, with the incorporation of professional channels and checkpoints, it now becomes truly verifiable what reaches our students during the preparation period. Therefore, PotePedia is one of the most modern tools in today's Hungarian medical training practice. Of course, one does not become a doctor by reading through it from beginning to end, just as no dictionary or encyclopaedia makes anyone a language teacher or an academic. Modern foundations must be associated with teacher and mentor guidance and an excellent practical background, without which the development of medical expertise is unimaginable.
PotePedia provides answers to the most pressing problems of our education through the conscious handling and synthesis of multiple recognitions.
The first is that while in the middle of the 20th century, the "half-life" of medical knowledge was about 50 years, now this period has been reduced to half a year. Previous educational methodologies are responding to the growth of knowledge at this rate with increasing inertia, which questions the modernity of our education. The necessary changes can be made in Potepedia even in minutes.
Keeping the training content up to date is essential, but it immediately leads to another task, namely, how to create professional relationships and connections between the ever-changing disciplines.
It may sound strange, but the answer to the two problems, and one of the most important didactic tools of our digital education, is the teacher-student collaboration.
In addition to the professional materials that provide the foundations, there are a number of areas in the processing of which students can become involved and, under the guidance of experts in the given field, can actively participate in expanding the knowledge base.
And it is equally important for the interdependence of the individual disciplines to become perceptible, that the concepts and methodologies form a kind of network from the basics to the practical application. This network can also be the result of working together, which plays a major role in the efficient and effective transfer of knowledge through thinking together.
What has changed due to the pandemic? Has the basic goal changed or has development and work only accelerated as a result of the circumstances?
PotePedia was not an ad hoc idea of the School, but a tool being designed for more than a year, the introduction of which was preceded by careful preparation. At the same time, it is undeniable that the pressure to switch to distance education has significantly accelerated the completion and handover of the system, so it will be used a little earlier than originally planned, already in the exam period of the current semester, even if not with full functionality.
Digital education is not simply a transition from paper-based note, lecture and learning material development to an electronic one. It is not the form of recording and storage that is decisive, but the intelligent solutions based on it. It is no longer a special feature today that the work materials describing the training are easily and quickly available and, in the best scenario, independent of the device.
PotePedia also wants to meet the expectation that learning becomes experiential and thus deeper by showing us whole processes.
Let us take an example! How much more exciting it is to learn the descriptive equations of cellular biochemical processes if we can associate them with the metabolic process of cell membranes, their significance in physiological processes and we can see all this through the images of super resolution devices. The three areas are already in one strand and provide an opportunity to understand how one professional area builds on the knowledge of another in education as well.
But data analysis and personalization can be at least as powerful tools for innovative digital education.
If we start using the incorporated testing options, then, given the results, the automatism of the system can help to see where there are still gaps that need to be filled. From another perspective, this can also provide direct feedback to our instructors as to which of our learning materials are a problem for students to master, so more attention should be paid to them.
Today, it is natural that the presentation and publication of research, lectures, and topics becomes available in many professional forums. We have taken care to monitor these before as well, and PotePedia provides an opportunity for their integration.
In this way, we can enrich the academic background of our undergraduate education and provide a way not to limit the interest of our students to the level of expectations of our system of requirements, but to inspire them to find their own professional field.
The PotePedia system has been consciously using and building on the diversity of content development since the beginning. At the same time, as a development it can never stop, and it has to strive to implement the useful procedures that represent high technology medical training today. Involving them in education provides a solution to the problem.
One of the most significant developments at the MS in recent years has been the M3D-Vision application - live streaming of medical content even in a virtual 3D environment -, which allows the observation of surgical or other medical interventions that are difficult for an external observer to monitor. In part, the system is already suitable for handling this, but for its practical application we still need to carry out further software and infrastructure developments. The latter will be possible partly in the new central educational building, constructed from MVP (Modern Cities Program) resources, by creating a so-called digital showroom.
I would not like to highlight areas because it would be neither timely nor elegant to rank the work invested by the departments at the beginning. The subject opportunities are not exactly the same either, but we would definitely like to show more widely what PotePedia can do in the near future.
In the case of some of our more active subjects, a lot of exciting materials has been created recently that is expected to be presented, to outsiders as well, because we would like future students to feel like they should choose us due to this as well.
PotePedia can be functionally divided into two separate parts. On the one hand, it is practically an unlimitedly expandable cloud storage where all learning materials of each subject can be arranged in a systematic and searchable way, regardless of their format. Call it a library, a repository - or a treasury of learning materials that summarizes the basics of our training requirements. On the other hand, it has a toolkit for curriculum development, standardization and networking. This allows us to make our learning materials of different quality and structure responsive and of the same quality, and it also provides the opportunity to create a logical connection between them.
Contrary to the previous schedule, we now would like PotePedia to be the central knowledge base of the School as soon as possible, so we have opened it to our course directors and we would like them to upload exam preparation materials for students as soon as possible despite or in response to the changed situation.
This is arguably an arduous, time and energy consuming job, but we are ready for it. A tremendous amount of valuable material has been produced this semester as well, which students need.
We have prepared and supported the upload process through an online course and written guides, but this groundwork is more arduous than complicated.
The feedback so far has confirmed this.
The students could not yet give their opinions on it, given that the publication of the learning materials is beginning now, but we have continuously involved our Student Education Development Group and the Student Council (HÖK) in the developments. At the same time, they can log in to the platform and learn about its easy use with the help of an unusual Dean’s Coffee Break video and its handout. Of course, we expect their opinion, because it has been made for them and the design of PotePedia will also be shaped by their current and future opinion.
We are very proud that the teacher-student collaboration appears tangibly through PotePedia.
We count on the work of student volunteers in processing and editing the learning materials and creating their network, which we coordinate with the help of the HÖK and we also support it through a special student scholarship. It is not a secret that PotePedia is modelled on Wikipedia, but at the same time wants to create a unique knowledge base for our students with a focus on medical education (doctor, dentist, biotechnologist).
We think it is a pleasure and an honour to become one of its creators.
We are now following a scenario different from the previous plans, the first milestone of which is the beginning of the exam period. By then, we would like the course directors to make the digital learning materials for this semester as widely available as possible through PotePedia.
Our next stop will be the opening ceremony of the new academic year, which we would like to hold so that the materials for the first semester of 2020 are available for the students.
However, the full availability of PotePedia is a longer process with many more exciting developments and stages. We will provide information about these on potepedia.com, which will be launched within a few days, as well as in the School news.
PotePedia will have a place and role in our education, and I am confident that we will find the healthy balance that will support our traditional forms of training, and in some cases replace them.
Naturally, the practice-oriented process of medical training cannot be taken over, however, it provides excellent support and an opportunity for our training to apply new methods as well.
We are pioneers in this development, but the areas of knowledge sharing, up-to-date information, schedule and individual progress will certainly be transformed by using it.
From the very beginning, the vision of digital development has included the possibility of building on community work and care. The participants, instructors, researchers, practitioners, and students alike can contribute to keeping the knowledge fresh.
The key to development, therefore, is continuous monitoring, the constant revision of knowledge based on the available and reliable sources and information.
PotePedia can therefore be one of the most reliable sources of medical education in Pécs, and we hope that it will be a defining experience for many medical generations.
Maintaining the curriculum network is based on the state-of-the-art cloud-based storage system used today, which we use from service providers specialized for that, so we do not have any such tasks. We use the developer of the software framework and our partner, Dexter Kft. for the developments related to the operation, so our development ideas are concentrated in one hand from the very beginning, thus ensuring the technological homogeneity.
As far as the operation and maintenance of the content is concerned, with slight exaggeration the whole School will be part of the work, with different professional level access.
We could not wish for a better team and community-building joint thinking.
László Fekete - Gábor Szabó, Pécs, 30 April 2020