Introduction: With the Coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] pandemic, changes were undertaken out of necessity to allow medical students to continue their education. The aim of this study is to create key themes for educators to consider when implementing distance learning strategies into the curriculum based on 2nd year graduate entry medical students experience of learning and engagement with the use of distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Materials and Methods: A qualitative study with a phenomenological methodology was set within a constructivist paradigm. A volunteer sampling strategy was used to recruit participants. Nine semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews were undertaken and transcribed verbatim. A thematic analysis was undertaken of the transcripts using the Braun and Clarke framework with an open-coded approach. 

Results: Exploration of the student experience generated an understanding of the learning process. The concept of adaptability emerged based on the themes of technology, environment, study skills and human interaction. 

Discussion: Necessary changes to the formal curriculum affected medical students learning and experience that demanded adaptability. The ‘new normal’ generated a context within which students were communicating and interacting in ways creating individual challenges for students and educators. 

Conclusion: With the advancements in information, communication and technology, distance learning is likely to be further incorporated in undergraduate training long term. Its position should be one that is harmonious within the wider educational realm that engages and meets the needs of the students. The rich understanding exposes adaptations and considerations for educators to improve the student experience.


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Cite as

Roman, A., Marshall, B., Barry, D. & Cable, S. 2023, 'A qualitative study of medical students’ perspectives on distance learning during COVID-19', Medical Science Educator. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40670-023-01761-8

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Last updated: 15 March 2023
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