Supporting the Transition to Distance Education During the Pandemic and Beyond

Anita Samuel, Yating Teng, Michael Y. Soh, Beth King, Ronald M. Cervero, Steven J. Durning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic affected almost every country around the world, and various forms of lockdown or quarantine measures were implemented. The lockdowns forced medical educators to step beyond traditional educational approaches and adopt distance education technologies to maintain continuity in the curriculum. This article presents selected strategies implemented by the Distance Learning Lab (DLL) at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USU), School of Medicine (SOM), in transitioning their instruction to an emergency distance education format during the COVID-19 pandemic. Materials and Methods: When moving programs/courses to a distance education format, it is important to recognize that two primary stakeholders are involved in the process: faculty members and students. Therefore, to be successful in transitioning to distance education, strategies must address the needs of both groups and provide support and resources for both. The DLL used two lenses of adult learning and targeted needs assessment to design faculty and student support during the pandemic. The DLL adopted a learner-centered approach to education, focusing on meeting the faculty members and students where they are. This translated into three specific support strategies for faculty: (1) workshops, (2) individualized support, and (3) just-in-time self-paced support. For students, DLL faculty members conducted orientation sessions and provided just-in-time self-paced support. Results: The DLL has conducted 440 consultations and 120 workshops for faculty members since March 2020, serving 626 faculty members (above 70% of SOM faculty members locally) at USU. In addition, the faculty support website has had 633 visitors and 3,455 pageviews. Feedback comments provided by faculty members have specifically highlighted the personalized approach and the active, participatory elements of the workshops and consultations. Evaluations of the student orientation sessions showed that they felt more confident in using the technologies after the orientation. The biggest increase in confidence levels was seen in the topic areas and technology tools unfamiliar to them. However, even for tools that students were familiar with before the orientation, there was an increase in confidence ratings. Conclusion: Post-pandemic, the potential to use distance education remains. It is important to have support units that recognize and cater to the singular needs of medical faculty members and students as they continue to use distance technologies to facilitate student learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-80
Number of pages6
JournalMilitary Medicine
StatePublished - 1 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


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