Maximizing Benefit of Virtual Learning: Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Elizabeth L. Carpenter*, Alexandra M. Adams, Robert C. Chick, Mamie C. Stull, Diane F. Hale, Brandon W. Propper, Guy T. Clifton, Timothy J. Vreeland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has profoundly impacted surgical education. We assessed resident perceptions of our virtual academic program, which consists of daily lectures or case conferences held via a videoconferencing platform. Methods: A survey evaluating attitudes and practices for virtual academics was administered to general surgery residents. A focus group was conducted to identify benefits, barriers to engagement, and opportunities for improvement for virtual education. A total of 19 residents completed the education survey, and seven residents participated in the focus group. Results: While expressing preference toward in-person academics (84.2%), residents felt the virtual academics were of good quality (median rating 4/5) and preferred virtual academics to no academic sessions (94.7%). Of respondents, 57.9% believe that the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted their surgical education. They believe their American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination preparation was not impacted. Residents preferred using a computer over a phone for academics (79% versus 16%). The focus group identified the benefits of virtual academics, including the ability to participate while away and having recordings available. Areas for improvement included reinforcement of protected time for academics, requiring cameras be on, increasing in-lecture polls, and creation of an online repository of recordings for review. Residents hoped a virtual component of academics and recordings would continue past the pandemic. Conclusions: Although virtual academics are not the preferred mode of learning in our residency, there are multiple unintended benefits. We recommend a hybrid academic model with in-person didactics and recorded video for later review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-47
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Hybrid education
  • Pandemic
  • Virtual education


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