Undergraduate medical education amid COVID-19: a qualitative analysis of enablers and barriers to acquiring competencies in distant learning using focus groups

December 26, 2021

Anika Reinhart, Bastian Malzkorn, Carsten Doiing, Ines Beyer, Jana Junger, Hans Martin Bosse


Reinhart et al conducted a qualitative study of German fifth year medical school students and teachers during the pandemic to understand how faculty relay clinical competencies online and how students receive this information. Six focus group interviews of a convenience sample of 16 medical students and eight teachers were conducted to gain insight into the feelings, motivations, experiences, and attitudes of the subjects. Open-ended questions were asked and data was analysed via the Regmi and Jones theoretical framework, looking at both enablers and barriers which impact e-learning. Five themes with enablers and barriers were identified: Mental Well-being, Communication, Structure and Self-organization, Technical Issues and Learning and Commitment. Students reported feeling more relaxed and healthier with online learning, whereas teachers missed the student interaction, although both groups relished the flexibility. Communication was diminished because of less in-person time, but students and teachers felt more intensely connected to their teachers. Communication between students and patients online was stunted. Student’s personal organization skills were put to the test, and clear work assignments and curriculums were liked by students and teachers. No parties had major technical issues. Learning was thought to have become deeper, but there is less collaboration between students. Practical, hands-on learning was missed by students. It was concluded that increased mental well-being, along with the content and tests being related helped avoid any barriers found in the themes. Ultimately, both teachers and students found many positive impacts of e-learning and researchers suggest that this study can be used to inform other online-teaching curriculums.

Reinhart A., Malzkorn B., Döing C., et al. Undergraduate medical education amid COVID-19: a qualitative analysis. Med Educ Online 2021; 26. DOI:10.1080/10872981.2021.1940765.