Restrictions on working time and healthcare expenditures, as well as increasing subspecialization with caseload requirements per surgeon and increased quality-of-care expectations, provide limited opportunities for surgical residents to be trained in the operating room. Yet, surgical training requires goal-oriented and focused practice. As a result, training simulators are increasingly utilized. The authors designed a two-step blended course consisting of a personalized adaptive electronic learning (e-learning) module followed by simulator training. This paper reports on course development and the evaluation by the first participants.
Adaptive e-learning was curated by learning engineers based on theoretical information provided by clinicians (subject matter experts). A lumbar spine model for image-guided spinal injections was used for the simulator training. Residents were assigned to the e-learning module first; after its completion, they participated in the simulator training. Performance data were recorded for each participant’s e-learning module, which was necessary to personalize the learning experience to each individual’s knowledge and needs. Simulator training was organized in small groups with a 1-to-4 instructor-to-participant ratio. Structured assessments were undertaken, adapted from the Student Evaluation of Educational Quality.
The adaptive e-learning module was curated, reviewed, and approved within 10 weeks. Eight participants have taken the course to date. The overall rating of the course is very good (4.8/5). Adaptive e-learning is well received compared with other e-learning types (8/10), but scores lower regarding usefulness, efficiency, and fun compared with the simulator training, despite improved conscious competency (32.6% ± 15.1%) and decreased subconscious incompetency (22.8% ± 10.2%). The subjective skill level improved by 20%. Asked about the estimated impact of the course, participants indicated that they had either learned something new that they plan to use in their practice (71.4%) or felt reassured in their practice (28.6%).
The development of a blended training course combining adaptive e-learning and simulator training in a rapid manner is feasible and leads to improved skills. Simulator training is rated more valuable by surgical trainees than theoretical e-learning; the impact of this type of training on patient care needs to be further investigated.