Distance learning or teaching has been around for many years. It’s been used in some countries when distance to “normal” teaching environments is too great to be feasible as an accepted form of teaching since child education became the norm. With the evolution of the internet and its rapidly increasing availability, this has evolved into “online learning” or “e-learning”.
The COVID-19 period of lockdown and imposed physical isolation has made the global, not just the UK, population explore how they can use the internet to talk to family and friends, socialise, shop and share funny, uplifting or plain wacky thoughts. We’ve laughed together, ranted together and supported each other, online. Now, increasingly, we can learn together.
There are many well quoted benefits to online learning:
- Increased availability: not restricted to certain times
- Increased access: can be done from home
- More time efficient: no need to swap rotas or allow for travel time to attend the course
- More personal: easier to tailor a course to your needs
- Increased access to international experts: no need for CPD providers to pay airfares to hear international experts
- Can be more interactive for some people: some are more likely to interact online than in person as they feel less intimidated
These factors all make online CPD an obvious choice in these times of restrictions and likely long-lasting worldwide social distancing and quarantine requirements. There are downsides, however: to watch high-quality webinars or participate in video conferencing you need a good internet connection, which is not always possible in the evenings in rural areas; a much greater degree of self-discipline and motivation can be required to watch a CPD talk rather than sink onto the sofa in front of the latest box set; and, at the end of the day, it’s not the same as catching up with your mates for the day.
Having said all that, online CPD is here to stay. It can be surprisingly interactive and enjoyable (and I speak as a technophobe with a dislike of computers). If we go back to raw, basic learning objectives, online CPD can teach you an amazing amount of practical skills and practical problem solving.
So, whilst we are continuing to look at how we run practical courses building in social distancing, smaller group sizes, reducing transmission risk and making attended CPD courses safe for delegates, speakers and staff for the future, we’re also taking on this challenge.
This is a huge opportunity for us as a profession to evolve and develop our ways of learning so we can benefit from a global learning experience, using speakers and their knowledge and experience from around the world, as well as locally. We can also easily include overseas vets in our learning community, gathering knowledge from them and discussing how they recognise and approach exotic diseases such as West Nile fever, bluetongue or African horse sickness.
At BEVA, we’ve started running online “Furlough Clubs”. These are directed at furloughed vets with the aim of trying to prevent isolation from work and colleagues, but are open to all BEVA members. They start with a presentation of a case or topic, then we discuss any questions arising from the case and move on to a more open discussion about life as we now know it.
So far, we have covered everything ranging from furloughed DIY projects to the trauma of home schooling, or the likelihood of a vaccine and what ambulatory work will look like in six months. As time progresses and the furloughed proportion decreases, we hope to evolve this into a fortnightly clinical club. We’re also trialling journal clubs in a similar format, as well as working on running interactive CPD on topics that we’d planned as attended CPD courses.
We are lucky to have a bank of over 100 webinars and congress sessions, as well as quizzes, narrated PowerPoints and clinical soundbites to fall back on – these are all free to BEVA members and cover everything from management and business tips, to avoiding client debt, time management, lameness, reproduction, medicine and the latest in how to diet fat field-kept ponies.
CPD as we have known it is currently undergoing an acute Darwinian trial – those who can evolve quickly and innovate will survive and thrive, those who can’t will struggle. One thing is certain, vets and vet nurses are still going to need CPD, possibly more than ever, and we at BEVA CPD will rise to the challenge of providing it!