Sheffield University in the UK is setting up a free online dentistry course to give future dentists a jump-start on their careers.
Christopher Stokes, educator at Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry, hopes this type of program will offer students interested in dentistry the means to learn more about the field and the chance to shine in an otherwise competitive admissions field.
“By creating this free online course,” says Stokes, “we can now reach even more students, potentially equipping thousands of aspiring dentists from around the world for their dental school application.”
This program is one of a growing number of “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), which seek to use the Internet as an accessible and easily-updated venue for education.
“By creating this free online course, we can now reach even more students, potentially equipping thousands of aspiring dentists from around the world for their dental school application,” says Stokes.
The inherent fluidity of the online world also lends itself well to Internet learning, as a course can be more easily modified as new research is published. In any modern field, this fluidity is a must.
Take, for instance, the recently published article from the American Dental Association (ADA), which debunks the notion that parents must wait to brush their children’s teeth with flouride until the child is three years old. The ADA now recommends a “rice-grain-sized smear” on a toddler’s toothbrush.
In a pre-Internet learning environment, this kind of update might take months, even years, to find its way into the curriculum.
MOOCs also have the distinct advantage of speaking to the current global teenage population in a technological language they already understand. As mobile devices become an even greater part of our everyday lives, it’s seen by many educators as imperative to meet young learners where they’re most comfortable.
And the stats back it up. According to analysts at Outsell, a California-based research and advisory service, over 4.5 million students had enrolled in at least one MOOC by the end of 2013. Will MOOCs overtake the more “traditional” online format of distance learning? Only time will tell.