Bring UNE medical students back to on-campus teaching 2021

Bring UNE medical students back to on-campus teaching 2021

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Rachael Barlow started this petition to Vice Chancellor of UNE - Brigid Heywood and

To whom it may concern,

We understand that the JMP course coordinators and UNE have been under very difficult circumstances over the past year with COVID-19. We appreciate the effort and organisation that went into the intensives in Semester 2 and are grateful for that opportunity for face to face learning. However, coming into second year in 2021, the cohort believes that we absolutely cannot continue as an online course. We feel that the quality of teaching we are receiving is being deeply compromised, with the online forms of PBL, clinical skills, and anatomy labs failing to provide us with the necessary information and skills to become competent doctors. This is at no fault to the tutors or lecturers who are trying their best to teach in trying circumstances. 

While the intensive model was appreciated as an alternative in very difficult times, this mode of teaching does not work. The clinical teaching was crammed into 2 weeks and focused purely on gaining competence to pass an exam. We did not receive the comprehensive understanding or feedback that we would have from weekly on-campus. We only got 2 or 3 opportunities for supervised OSCE attempts so we didn't get to refine our technique or build any confidence to be able to use this in a real clinical setting. Also, skills of communication and resilience that is learnt from spending time with students and tutors cannot be replicated with online learning. 

It is widely agreed across the cohort that PBL tutorials absolutely cannot be replicated online. Tutors have also agreed that this discussion-based form of learning is infinitely more useful for students in person. We understand the need to stick to government policies in regards to fitting students into rooms, but these policies are constantly changing and there are many plausible alternatives e.g. holding PBL sessions outside on the grass. 

The lack of clinical experience we were able to receive in Semester 2 this year was also very frustrating. Medical schools such as Western Sydney University (where the majority of NSW COVID cases have been based around), were able to continue hospital placements for their students throughout COVID, yet in Armidale, we were not even allowed to have a PBL session in person. Similarly, the online anatomy labs are a major downgrade from in-person lab sessions. Whilst we understand that the tutors are trying their best to adapt to the online world, there is no substitute for being in an actual lab and seeing the cadaver specimens; something that is deeply important for a medical student. 

We feel it is incredibly unfair and ironic that medical courses (and other courses) at other universities in NSW are, for the most part, back on campus. For example, USYD and UNSW have successfully allowed students back to campus for tutorial sessions, practicals and labs. Metropolitan universities such as this have a much greater risk of COVID spread and yet there have been no outbreaks or any cases linked to specific tutorial or lab classes. How is UNE at greater risk, with year cohorts of under 70 students? 

We urge you to address these very serious concerns, as we feel that staying online or doing small intensive blocks next year will undoubtedly impact our competence as doctors in the future. Whilst we hope it is not the case, we feel that UNE is prioritising ease of delivery over the quality of their teaching, especially given other universities are showing how COVID-safe on-campus teaching can be successful. 

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