Inspired Teaching

E-Learning Culture in the Time of COVID-19

By Ana Hategan, Anthony Levinson (@eLearningDoctor) and Sarah Payne
Originally Published, April 10, 2020

While many faculty members are considering how we can stay connected with and be a support to our trainees during this COVID-19 crisis, others are creating online curriculum and other virtual teaching and learning opportunities to facilitate ongoing learning in practical ways.

In 2018, the psychiatry department at McMaster University spearheaded the development of an online resident physician wellness curriculum to help enhance resiliency, thereby allowing physicians to maintain their skills in a “model of sustenance” ( This wellness curriculum was the product of an international collaboration amongst four academic medical centres: McMaster University, Dalhousie University, University of California, at Davis, and Texas A&M University. This serves as an example of how contemporary educators can potentially reach large, even global, audiences through digital platforms.

In an era of limited faculty and financial resources, especially in relatively small subspecialty residency training programs, one should expect to see an adaptation of the more traditional curriculum models. In early 2020, McMaster and Dalhousie psychiatry educators partnered to respond to McMaster’s call to action to implement a new core, e-curriculum sharing model. This pilot project has led to the creation of a common e-curricular component ecosystem in the subspecialty of geriatric psychiatry; it is developed around consensus-built foundational learning objectives and aligned with core competencies that must be acquired by all subspecialty residents graduating at their respective medical training programs. The participating faculty members and resident/fellow authors have developed e-learning modules on core topics in the new shared curriculum. With an emphasis on providing diverse instructional design, the e-learning modules are infused with fun, easy-to-digest case scenarios and case-based practice test-enhanced learning, as well as self-evaluation tools to help trainees study strategically, at their own pace.

The benefits of such shared e-curriculum are manifold:

Academic institutions must strive to maximize resources and increase efficiencies by promoting collaborative teaching and medical education research efforts among institutions. This is particularly true during a time of pandemic, when medical educators may be overwhelmed with other clinical responsibilities, or even physically unwell.

Suggested Further Readings:

Medical educators are increasingly choosing or being required to shift to online teaching. To help the reader further understand the shared e-learning culture concept, the following are some resources promoting goals and objectives of curricular sharing.  

1. Maggio LA, Daley BJ, Pratt DD, Torre DM. Honoring thyself in the transition to online teaching. Acad Med. 2018;93(8):1129-34.

2. Ruiz JG, Mintzer MJ, Leipzig RM. The impact of e-learning in medical education. Acad Med. 2006;81(3):207-212.

3. Rose S. Medical student education in the time of COVID-19. JAMA. 2020 Mar 31. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5227.

4. Regmi K, Jones L. A systematic review of the factors – enablers and barriers – affecting e-learning in health sciences education. BMC Med Educ. 2020;20(91).

Dr. Ana Hategan is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.  Read her full bio here.

Dr. Anthony J. Levinson (@eLearningDoctor)  is a full-time Associate Professor, member of the Program for Educational Research and Development (PERD) and the Director, Division of e-Learning Innovation for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University.  Read his full bio here

Sarah C. Payne, MD is a PGY5, Psychiatry.