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Keywords:

  • dental education;
  • e-learning;
  • peer review;
  • learning outcomes;
  • online learning;
  • community of practice;
  • operative techniques;
  • evaluation;
  • undergraduate education;
  • clinical skills;
  • situated learning

Abstract

Background

Situated and sociocultural perspectives on learning indicate that the design of complex tasks supported by educational technologies holds potential for dental education in moving novices towards closer approximation of the clinical outcomes of their expert mentors. A cross-faculty-, student-centred, web-based project in operative dentistry was established within the Universitas 21 (U21) network of higher education institutions to support university goals for internationalisation in clinical learning by enabling distributed interactions across sites and institutions. This paper aims to present evaluation of one dental faculty's project experience of curriculum redesign for deeper student learning.

Methods

A mixed-method case study approach was utilised. Three cohorts of second-year students from a 5-year bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) programme were invited to participate in annual surveys and focus group interviews on project completion. Survey data were analysed for differences between years using multivariate logistical regression analysis. Thematic analysis of questionnaire open responses and interview transcripts was conducted.

Results

Multivariate logistic regression analysis noted significant differences across items over time indicating learning improvements, attainment of university aims and the positive influence of redesign. Students perceived the enquiry-based project as stimulating and motivating, and building confidence in operative techniques. Institutional goals for greater understanding of others and lifelong learning showed improvement over time. Despite positive scores, students indicated global citizenship and intercultural understanding were conceptually challenging.

Conclusions

Establishment of online student learning communities through a blended approach to learning stimulated motivation and intellectual engagement, thereby supporting a situated approach to cognition. Sociocultural perspectives indicate that novice–expert interactions supported student development of professional identities.