Angela Li, first year MChD student at the University of Leeds, shares advice on successful online learning from home.

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic is having a large effect on dental student life, impacting on our studies, social life and wellbeing.

I spent the first few weeks worried and unproductive, not knowing what tomorrow could bring and constantly being bombarded with news updates and anxious messages from fellow students. We were worried about missing clinical experience, unsure about whether to go home or remain in university accommodation and wondering if summer exams would be cancelled. Around the same time as all of this, we also received our February exam results – some students had the added stress of resits and hoping they could still progress to next year.

Unlike students on most other courses, non-final year dental students are still waiting to hear if and how exams will still take place. This seems bothersome but makes sense when we remember our clinical responsibility and professional accreditation requirements. It is tempting to delay revision until further exam clarification is given, but this may only increase future stress, since we will need to learn the material sooner or later. As the next generation of dentists, we should study not only for the sake of exams, but for our own clinical competency and most importantly, for our patients.

Universities have migrated to online learning, and although this allows for greater learning flexibility, it is much easier to get distracted at home and lose our sense of routine. Many of us are accustomed to revising in the library with fewer disturbances and structuring our day around attending lectures and other activities. It has taken time to adjust my learning habits, but I have found these changes beneficial in terms of improving my mindset and productivity.

Here are a couple of my top tips to help you make the most of your home learning:

1) Be organised
Creating a to-do list is a great way of organising your tasks. I also find it useful to assign specific tasks to each section of the day (early/later morning, afternoon and evening), rather than to rigid time slots, allowing you to organise each section in your day as you go along. Setting up a distraction-free work zone at home is a key part in allowing for focused work, and I find productivity apps that use the pomodoro technique particularly effective.

2) Be proactive!
I’ve recently discovered a world of online dental webinars and Instagram live sessions led by top clinicians. Topics range from digital dentistry to facial aesthetics and from implants to biomimetics, which are highly exciting areas often not taught at undergraduate level. For webinars, I recommend signing up for the ‘Lockdown 2020’ series organised by Dr Clive Schmulian and the weekly Smile Dental Academy webinars. These can encourage the discovery of new interests within the field of dentistry and significantly helps to increase motivation.

In these uncertain times, it’s important to not get overwhelmed by all the changes around us. Instead, we would benefit from using this time as an opportunity for learning, personal growth, and setting goals for our next academic year. Before we know it, we’ll be back in dental school fitting rubber dams to phantom heads in no time.

Author bio

I am currently a first year MChD student and dental year representative at the University of Leeds. Through my experiences so far, I have developed an interest in Restorative Dentistry, and I would like to explore this area further through undertaking work shadowing, attending courses and getting involved with academia. Following graduation, I would like to gain experience as a Dental Core Trainee.

In my free time, I enjoy playing badminton, hiking and travelling.