I want to follow-up on my essay about optimizing online classes by stating that web-based lecture is the future of med school. The technology is already available to get just as much or more out of “lecture capturing” as in-person lectures. It is no secret that most lecturers at med school are full-time clinicians who take on teaching as more of a hobby. Some are superb, others abysmal, but few are true professional teachers. Why not record the best teachers from around the country giving lectures on their areas of expertise? Several companies are already providing such content, mostly aimed at prepping for the Step 1. (There are even programs offering comprehensive online lecture and written material for the pre-clinical years for a few hundred dollars.*) Many students already use these commercially available lectures to supplement or supplant the official med school offerings.
So what is irreplaceable about being an actually human body in an actual physical med school? First: patient contact. Although even doctors-visits are being done online nowadays, there is no substitute for being face-to-face with patients. Second, discussion-groups and team-based learning. These opportunities to consult peers and experts as you work through realistic problems are the bread-and-butter of learning to think like a doctor. Other than that, the passive learning from lectures may very well best be done independently, at your own pace, in your pajamas.
*This is a good thing. Technology has leveled the academic playing field between prestigious universities and no-names. You used to have to go to Harvard to get the best education, but now you can just go to best-education.com and get the same content for cheap. Considering that the wealth gap of universities continues to grow, this technological open-access is a step toward equity in education.