Running My First Online Prosthodontic Course

Running My First Online Prosthodontic Course

After two years of taking on the role of a course director for the third year prosthodontic course at the dental school at U of T, I thought I finally got the hang of running a didactic course. Then of course, Covid hit and everything changed.  My course had to move online.  Very soon, I had to make a decision whether to run my course in synchronous format (real time) or in asynchronous format.  At the time, these terms were so new to me and I didn’t even know what would work best.  Then all of a sudden, I also had to learn so many different platforms for online delivery.  Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft teams and U of T My media were just a few platforms I had tried and navigated to determine what would be the best way to deliver my material.  And now the term is almost over, I am just about finishing up marking some of the assignments, I can finally breath a little bit and reflect on this journey of running my first online course.

Last summer when I had to redesign this course, I could only imagine what my students would be feeling:  their prime time of learning dentistry had been and is still heavily affected.  I asked myself what I can do to make my course as useful as it can be, given the circumstances.  The truth was I did not know where to begin.  But at the same time, I had the opportunity to listen to a virtual talk given by Dr. Jeffery Okeson on orofacial pain, organized by the Toronto Crown and Bridge Study Club.  For those of you who know, Dr Jeffery Okeson has written many textbooks on occlusion and orofacial pain.  I must have read his textbooks a dozen times during my residency but I have never heard him speak in person.  Before that course, I was thinking how I can sit for 8 hours listening to him talk about orofacial pain.

But surprisingly when the day came, I was so engaged in his material.  I enjoyed it so much that I believe his talk helped me prepare my online course.  One of the things I noticed was that even though he was presenting in front of the monitor, he really imagined there was a live audience in front of him.  He was using a lot of stories to depict the reality of patients with orofacial pain.  And most importantly, his presentation had incorporated lots of animations to support his content.

After participating his one day course, these were some of the elements I took away and applied to my online course:

1/I paid more attention to the display of my content.  I looked at the font size, the colour display as well as the presentation format.  Knowing this was all my students could rely on, I focused on how the content can be organized and displayed to facilitate their learning.

2/I divided up the content into smaller recordings.  In this format, the students have to physically pause and click on a new recording.  This gives them time for a mental break and avoids information overload.

3/I have kept my video on throughout the recording.  Initially, I thought it would not matter to have my face on the recording until some students reached out to me and asked if I can continue doing it.  The fact that they can see a human face on the recording makes it less isolating for them.

4/I have also used lots of virtual demonstration.  This is something I have incorporated even for in person learning.  I believe if I can demonstrate prosthodontics concept using real life example, they will understand it and remember it easily.  One of my signature demonstrations was using Tupperware to explain the concept of retention, support and stability in complete dentures.

In spite of all the challenges,   the course was always undergoing changes and improvement.    For that,  I am incredibly grateful for all the supportive colleagues who helped me along the way. Dr. Greg Anderson was very instrumental in finding appropriate cases for the treatment planning seminars. Dr. Leyla Sadighpour has always been passionate in helping anyway possible.  This year, Dr. Bo Huang has been extremely helpful in alleviating some of the administrative work load as well as running some of the treatment planning seminars and as a result, I can focus on developing more useful content for the students.   Lastly, I felt incredibly lucky to have Dr. Jack Gerrow who had so many years of experience in private practice and in dental education to help run some of the treatment planning seminars.  He taught me how to run an effective, student centered seminar.

Finally, I am also very thankful to Dr. David Chvartszaid, who is already very busy being the graduate prosthodontic program director at U of T, to give my students three lectures on implant dentistry.  And to Dr. Izchak Barzilay who wears many hats as a prosthodontist at the regional, national and international level, to share his secret sauce with my students on making things bond or stick as well as inspiring my students on his work in changing lives in Uganda.  And to Dr. Cecilia Aragon who have so much experience in academia as well as private practice to share her detailed steps in impression and delivery sequence for implant supported restorations with the students.

Despite Covid, I feel this has been my best course so far.  Yes there are still many areas for improvement but Covid has created a new platform for better learning in some ways.  I believe there is still a need for in person learning but until that is possible, I hope the students do feel that, in spite of many things being halted, their learning in prosthodontics has not stopped at all but instead, has continued to progress.  Thanks for reading.