This systematic review concludes that distance learning is a feasible alternative for anatomy and surgical teaching, although there are concerns about lack of hands-on experience for students, technical issues and high costs.
CITATION: Co M, Cheung KYC, Cheung WS, Fok HM, Fong KH, Kwok OY, et al. Distance education for anatomy and surgical training: A systematic review. The Surgeon. 2021.
ABSTRACT: Rapid development of COVID-19 has resulted in a massive shift from traditional to online teaching. This review aims to evaluate the effectiveness of distance learning on anatomy and surgical training. This systematic review was conducted in line with the PRISMA statement and current methodological literature. The databases CINAHL, Cochrane, EMBASE and Pubmed were searched using the search terms "Distant learning" OR "Distance learning" AND "Anatomy OR Surgery". 182 non-duplicate studies were identified. 20 studies were included for qualitative analysis. 10 studies evaluated students' performance with distance learning. 3 studies suggested that students' learning motivation improved with distance learning pedagogy. 5 studies found improved student performance with distance learning (performance or task completion time) when compared to conventional physical method. While 2 other studies found non-inferior student performance. 10 studies evaluated students' feedback on distance learning. Most feedbacks were positive, with flexibility, efficiency, increased motivation and better viewing angles as the most-liked features of distance teaching. 4 studies pointed out some limitations of distance learning, including the lack of personal contact with tutor, poor network and reduced student concentration. 7 studies evaluated tutors' feedback on distance learning. Tutors generally liked online platforms for the ease of tracking silent students, monitoring performance and updating fast-changing knowledge. Yet the lack of hands-on experience for students, technical issues and high costs are the main concerns for tutors. In conclusion, distance learning is a feasible alternative for anatomy and surgical teaching.