Abstract

While countries are facing different stages in their COVID-19 infection rates, worldwide there are millions of students affected by universities’ facilities closures due to the pandemic. Some institutions have enforced strategies to transfer some courses to a virtual modality, but many Dental Schools have been challenged to deal with a situation which requires emergency measures to continue the academic course in the middle of lock-downs and social distancing measures. Despite the fact that the number of online academic programs available, especially graduate programs, has increased in diverse modalities, this pandemic forced e-learning processes to develop abruptly. The likelihood of using e-learning strategies in dentistry was substantiated in the scientific literature and an overview of these opportunities is presented. Additionally, the experience of the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Dentistry is presented, as it was evident that some of the key elements in a e-learning environment needed a quick enhancement and initiation of some processes was required. First, it was necessary to categorize the academic courses depending on their virtualization's possibility (curricula analysis and classification), to better understand the extent of the impact and the work needed to contain, as far as the possibilities allowed, negative consequences on students learning process. Second, teachers needed further training in the application of virtual strategies which they hadn’t used before. do Third, an evaluation of the students’ conditions and needs was conducted in a form of a survey. Finally, teachers and students activated the available virtual platforms. For many Dental Schools, this virtualization process is an ongoing progress although it was abruptly imposed, but this moment indeed represents an enormous opportunity to move forward and get immerse in the virtualization environment as a teaching/learning experience.

Keywords: E-learning; Blended learning; Computer assisted instruction; Dentistry; COVID-19.