Aim: The aim of this study is to assess the influence of e-learning on dental education as perceived by predoctoral dental students.
Materials and methods: In an institutional review board (IRB) approved protocol, a 14-question survey was created and electronically distributed to second-, third-, and fourth-year dental students. The participation was considered voluntary and all responses were anonymous.
Results: The survey targeted 1,130 predoctoral students, of which 255 (22.6%) responded. Of the respondents, 124 students (48.6%) preferred traditional lecture mixed with online learning, while 46 students (18%) preferred only the traditional lecture style. The top three electronic resources/applications, which students perceived as having the greatest impact on their learning, were: YouTube, Bone Box, and Google. The responses also indicated that 76.5% of the students gave high credibility (scores of 4 and 5) to electronic resources recommended by faculties. Sixty percent of students spent 1 to more than 4 hours per day on electronic resources for academic performance. The most important factor for online applications influencing academic performance was “organization and logic of content” (54%). E-learning had a significant perceived effect (scores of 4/5) on didactic understanding (65.1%) and on clinical understanding (71.4%). Students observed that faculties estimated to be under 50 years of age were more likely to incorporate e-learning into courses (52.6%) and more likely to use social media for communication (41.6%).
Conclusion: The results indicate that e-learning may successfully be used in a dental school's curriculum to enhance students’ perceptions of fundamental concepts and to enable students to apply this knowledge to clinical cases.
Clinical significance: E-learning has recently been proposed as a basic supplementary tool to enhance medical and dental education. It is crucial to determine dental students’ preferences regarding social media, online applications, and databases in order to incorporate e-learning into dental school courses.
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