e-Education in paediatric surgery: a role for recorded seminars in areas of low bandwidth in sub-Saharan Africa
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There is a shortage of surgeons in Africa, and this shortage is particularly acute in paediatric surgery with most paediatric patients being cared for by general surgeons. The use of information technology to augment teaching in paediatric surgery in Africa is appealing but often unsuccessful due to the costs involved and a lack of bandwidth. A simple solution is needed to allow sharing of teaching sessions that are normally conducted by videoconference in areas in which bandwidth is adequate.
Weekly paediatric surgical interactive seminars that are regularly shared by videoconference by three centres in South Africa have been recorded onto DVDs. These have been bundled into monthly packages and couriered to four medical schools in East and Central Africa. Recipients have been at liberty to use them as they saw fit. After 6 months, a survey was conducted to determine the usefulness of the exercise.
At all recipient sites, the seminars were used as part of the teaching of general surgical trainees and paediatric surgical fellows at those medical schools with appropriate training programmes. Three of the four schools used the seminars in undergraduate courses. All regarded the seminars as useful and all but one as of adequate visual and sound quality.
The in-house teaching at the medical school in Durban is now shared by over 140 surgical trainees and students in four countries in which a lack of bandwidth precludes videoconferencing, and this low-tech low-cost solution has proved effective in resource-poor settings.