Davies, Christopher S. (2001) To what extent can the computer provide the “third dimension” to learning and teaching within the clinical environment? In: ALT-C 2001: Changing Learning Environments, 11th - 13th September 2001, Edinburgh, UK. (Unpublished)

Within clinical disciplines there are considered to be three dimensions to teaching. The first is the theoretical dimension, delivered in a variety of media in a lecture room situation; the second is the practical dimension delivered in a clinical setting where students practice their skills in preparation for clinical practice and the third dimension, where the application of the theoretical aspects are applied to the practical dimension with patients. Traditionally, students undertaking clinical teaching have relied upon the experiences of the clinical teaching staff to provide the third dimension of learning, namely the application of theory to practice. The nature of the composition of this input can be seen to change incrementally as the students progress through each stage (year) of the pathway, so that 1st and 2nd year students require a higher input from teaching staff, but the final year students reliance on tutors decreases as their own experiences become established prior to graduation and practice in their own right.

This paper investigates the extent to which the computer can provide that third dimension of learning and examines the impact this has upon the nature of information flows within the clinical environment. Traditionally information flows have existed between the patient, student and tutor. The introduction of the CAL room was seen to change the nature of these information flows and the computer plays an important part in the process of reaching a range of differential diagnoses before decisions are made on a preferred diagnosis, and the completion of an agreed treatment plan.

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