Summary: In his latest blog Professor Harden asks What about Avatars?, and discusses an opportunity for networking, and face-to-face vs online learning. Description:
What about Avatars?

The final preparations are in place for the AMEE 2022 conference which will be a hybrid conference with a face-to-face programme in Lyon and an online element that will allow those unable to be present in Lyon to participate at a distance. The online programme will, as for AMEE 2021, use the Swapcard platform with some improvements. I look back to the AMEE 2020 virtual conference where virtual avatars for the conference participants was a feature. This cutting edge technology received a mixed reception. Some participants welcomed the opportunity to meet and communicate with other participants’ avatars while others found the technology challenging, finding themselves unexpectedly on the stage with the presenter or sitting on another participant’s lap in the auditorium and were also concerned about the limitations in creating their avatar. I have been disappointed that this avatar technology has not made great progress over the last two years. Perhaps, however, this has now changed. The Sunday Times reported on 3/4/22 an online system that allows customers to create an accurate avatar of their own body complete with face to try on clothes and suit their needs.

An opportunity for networking

After two years of virtual conferences there seems great enthusiasm for the AMEE 2022 Conference and Ottawa 2022 which are both being held as face-to-face conferences in Lyon, but also with an online option. We have already more than 2000 participants registered.

In an article in the British Medical Journal, 26th February 2022 David Oliver highlighted the advantages of meeting face-to-face, “the opportunity to interact, socialise with and learn from peers, or meet professional leaders and experts throughout an event is immersive and enriching. Being just one of hundreds of people watching an online talk or panel discussion on a screen with a couple of online questions thrown in is very different from being in the hall with these speakers and colleagues.

I have gained a huge amount in terms of learning, experience, and professional networks from conferences throughout my career. They have often been among the highlights of any year.”

I look forward to seeing you in Lyon.

Oliver, D. 2022. Has covid killed the medical conference? BMJ. 376(o412).

Face-to-face vs Online learning

There is an ongoing debate as to whether, following the COVID-19 pandemic, we should return to face-to-face teaching and learning or offer students an online experience, or perhaps a blend of both. We need to be forward looking and creative and to adopt what I have called fusion-learning. Fusion learning involves a merging of diverse elements of face-to-face and online learning into a unified whole. This can be likened to the blending of retinal images in binocular vision. Examples of fusion are the union of atomic nuclei to form heavier nuclei, resulting in the release of enormous quantities of energy; opera is a fusion of several arts; food fusion is a combination of contrasting culinary traditions into a single dish, creating something new and distinctive. In the same way, we need learning fusion in education. Food fusion is popular because it allows chefs to create something distinctive, a dish they can truly call their own. It introduces new food concepts to customers in a subtle and interesting way. Let’s be creative and follow this example in medical education with learning fusion rather than simply blended learning.