Personal view or opinion piece
Open Access

Emerging Faculty Needs for Enhancing Student Engagement on a Virtual Platform

Samar Ahmed[1], Mohamed Shehata[2], Mohammed Hassanien[3]

Institution: 1. ASU-MENA-FRI- Ain Shams University Faculty of Medicine, 2. Department of Family and Community Medicine Arabian Gulf University, Kingdom of Bahrain, 3. King Abdulaziz University, Vice presidency for educational affairs and college of Pharmacy and College of Medicine, Tanta University
Corresponding Author: Dr Mohammed Hassanien ([email protected])
Categories: Students/Trainees, Teaching and Learning, Technology, Continuing Professional Development
Published Date: 23/04/2020


As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic health professions education, the world is living a major disruptive change and technology is being used abruptly to maintain teaching and learning. Face to face sessions have been replaced by virtual online lectures, the same occurred to small group tutorials, which have been replaced by interactive webinars. It is of paramount importance to acknowledge the role of technology and the presence of various applications and programs which facilitate this paradigm shift from face to face to virtual learning. The main challenges which face medical and other health colleges are the needs to train faculty members to heavily use technology in education and converting their materials to suite various online platforms. In addition, there is a great need to enhance students engagement in online learning to overcome the imposed physical barriers, which is not the case in face to face learning. The aim of this opinion piece is to draw light on the new needs for faculty development associated with digital transformation and the need for enhancing students engagement on a virtual platform.


Keywords: Virtual Learning; Faculty development; Engagement


As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic health professions education, the world is living a major disruptive change and technology is being used abruptly to ensure maintenance learning and teaching.


The near future of education in medical and other health colleges after the pandemic of COVID-19 has been discussed before and yet remains an open area for discussion and personal projections (Goh and Sandars, 2020). The transition into this future is what the world is living at the moment and the indulgence into available technologies and artificial intelligence is being approached now with very little time to focus on quality of education.

COVID-19 pandemic effect on Medical Education

COVID-19 pandemic has actually led to the extensive disturbance of medical and health professions education and training as well as continuous professional training (Ahmed et al., 2020; Murphy, 2020).


Some examples include decrease face to face teaching and training, marked shift of medical and clinical instructors to clinical and health related care, widespread of quarantine, influence of illness on health profession instructors and also students and trainees. Actions to ensure social distancing have actually included closure of medical and other health colleges and shift to work and study from home for both instructors and also students and trainees. Local and regional as well as global traveling, and participation in training programs and conferences has unfortunately been halted. Physical participation at workshops and training courses as well as seminar, conferences, meetings, clinical attachments and also visiting fellowships programs was discontinued. Unfortunately, there have additionally been a raising number of fatalities that include physicians as well as various other health care professionals. On the bright side, many faculty have been forced to introduce technology into their instruction.

Response to the COVID-19 pandemic

As a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis, educators started utilizing already existing technologies to implement an informed transformation to the virtual plane. They became aware of these technologies and used the least possible features to deliver the content in the shortest possible time (Iwai, 2020). A massive amount of content was developed in a short time. The main target was to offer an alternative to students in order to make sure that the content covered is satisfactory for student progression.


Face-to-face large group sessions have actively been replaced by virtual  lectures, utilizing  various available technologies for screen capture as well as online streaming. In addition small group tutorials have were shifted to more interactive online sessions utilizing internet based conferencing programs and applications (Goh and Sandars, 2020). Questions are raised regarding assessment of students especially in differentiating exams and how this ought to be performed in light of the social distancing approach.  As a result of the threat and the pressure of time we started seeing marked collaboration in between medical and other health colleges to make share of teaching resources and materials (PIVOT MedEd, 2020). In addition company providers are actually increasing the collaboration and engagement with health colleges including medical colleges as seen from collaborations offered through CISCO systems offering their WEBEX application for 3 months for universities in Egypt. 

What is at stake?

Despite the emerging transition into the future and the fact that educators were put under an unrealistic time constraint to adapt to the use of existing technologies, this resulted in establishing the transition to technology based education as an inevitable development in medical education. Yet in doing this, the core of education and learning was forgotten together with the concept of their evaluation.


Within the unplanned transition, the main focus became on compliance with technical needs and requirements at the expense of student centeredness, engagement and the educational environment.


For years, transition to student centered learning necessitated faculty development interventions to support it. The medical classroom has since become more engaging and many new instructional strategies and methods have been introduced as a result of increased educator awareness.


The recent chaotic transition to virtual platforms lifted the lid off a current need for faculty development that was not identified before. Faculty have demonstrated a need to be able to adapt their current knowledge and awareness of teaching methods and strategies and transfer them to the new virtual platform. The capacity to introduce innovation and innovative approaches into distant instruction utilizing the available technologies is a deficient area in faculty development.

Case Study

A faculty development plan to teach faculty implementation methods of item design with special focus on multiple choice questions was conducted as part of the contingency plan in place of the face to face training day that was planned before the COVID-19 situation escalation. The training was planned as a virtual synchronous meeting on zoom.


All attendees were trained on technical use of zoom. This was done through a series of videos in Arabic and English designed by our faculty and hosted on the YouTube Channel. Faculty were encouraged to watch the videos and comment on the videos posting their questions or feedback.


A section of these videos walked trainees through issues like opening and closing the camera, self-muting and unmuting, and sharing their screen (ASU-MENA-FRI, 2020).


During the training sessions trainees were prompted to listen and see the presentation through the share screen function of the instructor with his camera open. Instructor gave trainees the option to keep their cameras open to account for better interaction.


The “breakout rooms” function was used when a group work was required from the participants like eg. designing their own item.


In breakout rooms participants were encouraged to use the share white board function and to design their work as they would do on a flip chart. The screens were saved on the desktop of any of the participants and this participant was encouraged to share his/her screen when they were back to the main room to report out their work.


Break out rooms were timed according to the designated time for the activity and fellows were given a countdown of two minutes at the end of the activity.


Trainees utilizing the application demonstrated a high level of satisfaction with the new approach. Regarding the degree of engagement in the session from the participant opinion self-reported, they demonstrated an engagement of 90 percent which was statistically indifferent from the face to face session they had attended with the same trainer before the situation.

Take Home Messages

Our need for this transformation surpasses the quest for available technologies and applications. The focus on raising technical capacities of faculty to be able to use existing technologies is a need that has been identified for years and in most parts has been near adequately addressed. This leaves an unaddressed need to raise capacity of educators to adapt and integrate engagement mechanisms within their educational designs. This will come in two sectors one of which is raising awareness to the importance of student engagement and the second is filling their tool boxes with procedural adaptations to already existing teaching strategies rephrased in light of the virtual platform.


Notes On Contributors

Samar A Ahmed: Medical Doctorate, MHPE, FAIMER Fellow, UNESCO TOT,  Full professor in Forensic Medicine Ain Shams University, Director of ASU-MENA-FRI. She has a wide experience in project management and proposal writing after being a part of the Ministry of Higher Education EU project team for quite some time. She held many educational positions as a director of the quality assurance unit and the Director of the education development unit in more than one university.

Mohamed H Shehata: Msc, MD, MHPE, FAIMER Fellow. He is a Professor of Family Medicine - AGU. Faculty in EMR Regional FAIMER Institute. He founded the Medical Education Unit in Helwan University. Worked as educational consultant in the Egyptian Fellowship. In Suez Canal University he led the school's teams of field training, Clinical teaching and OSCE.

Mohammed A Hassanien: Msc, MD, MHPE, FAIMER Fellow. Associate professor of Medical Education and Clinical Biochemistry, currently, he is the consultant of the vice president for academic affairs and director of assessment unit, college of pharmacy at King Abdulaziz university, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and college of medicine, Tanta university, Egypt.




Ahmed, H., Allaf, M. and Elghazaly, H. (2020) ‘COVID-19 and medical education’, The Lancet. Online First. Published: March 23, 2020.


ASU-MENA-FRI. (2020), ASU-MENA-FRI Health Professions Education YouTube Channel, Available at: (Accessed: 29 March 2020).


Brown, M., McCormack, M., Reeves, J., Brook, D. C., et al. (2020) 2020 Educause Horizon Report Teaching and Learning Edition. Louisville, EDUCAUSE. Available at: (Accessed: 30 March 2020).


Goh, P., Sandars, J. (2020), 'A vision of the use of technology in medical education after the COVID-19 pandemic', MedEdPublish, 9, [1], 49,


Iwai, Y. (2020) ‘Online Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic: What do we gain and what do we lose when classrooms go virtual?’, Scientific American. Published on March 13, 2020. Available at: (Accessed: 1 April 2020).


Murphy, B. (2020) COVID-19: How the virus is impacting medical schools. Published March 18, 2020. Available at: (Accessed: 30 March 2020).


PIVOT MedEd. (2020) PIVOT Med Ed. Available at: (Accessed: 29 March 2020).




There are no conflicts of interest.
This has been published under Creative Commons "CC BY-SA 4.0" (

Ethics Statement

Ethical approval was not required as this article is an opinion piece, based on the authors' experience.

External Funding

This article has not had any External Funding


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Hebat Allah A. Amin - (01/02/2021)
An important article promptly addressing the needs and offering solutions through hands-on institutional experience.
Reyam Faisal - (01/05/2020)
its very great work by ASU-MENA-FRI- leaders, through making this innovative and fast transition in such global crisis, that reflect their resilience and finding the solutions.
the major challenges I think that emerging with such technologies and the new trend that force us to adopt it are the communication, engagement, time management and digital literacy for both educators and students.
Somaya Hosny - (27/04/2020)
This article informatively described the process followed in transforming the face-to-face teaching strategies to virtual platforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unplanned nature of this transition was the main challenge, and what made this article interesting. I am sure other educators will benefit from the authors' experience especially how they engaged the students.
Gehan Khalaf - (27/04/2020)
Valuable article reflecting the real situation. I totally agree that one of the most imprtant emerging needs is training the faculty on how to engage the students in the virtual classroom. The demonstrated case study is a good example as a tool to enhance student participation. Despite this world wide hard sitution, there is a bright side that most of teachers experienced the use of technology in their teaching.
Nathan Nagel - (26/04/2020)
Exceptionally well written, logical and thought provoking.
P Ravi Shankar - (26/04/2020) Panel Member Icon
This is an interesting manuscript. The title of the paper provides the reader with an impression that it will provide a list of emerging faculty needs for training and education with regard to improving student engagement with online platforms. On reading through the paper, I could not come across a specific defined list of needs which was a bit disappointing. The authors correctly identify the speed of the pandemic and the difficult situation of colleges and teachers who have to scramble to respond to the same. Most schools are using available technical resources which in some cases could be freely available, non-institutionally supported platforms to minimize the disruption to teaching. Faculty and students are both under stress due to the pandemic. The social isolation, closing down of many avenues of recreation and support have added to this feeling. There will be emerging faculty needs with regard to social and psychological support and with regard to designing, planning and implementing student assessments.
The case study is interesting. The take home messages section does not seem to follow from the previous discussion in the opinion piece. This personal opinion piece is a good beginner but the authors should use this as a stepping stone to identify specific faculty training needs and how these can be addressed.
Gehan Sadek - (26/04/2020)
A well-structured and informative work. It draws attention about the urgent need for all educators to rapidly adapt with the current situation during COVID-19 pandemic. All colleges of medicine must pay attention to the urgent need for capacity building of their staff in the domain of technology-enhanced learning. Besides, there is a need to for educators to know the student engagement methods during teaching, actually not only to adapt with the current situation but also for adopting as a long run. The article showed us a very successful case study that must be a model for all institutions, as the aim must be to not just adapt but the greater one is to complete the way of development that has started in many Arabic countries regarding scope of medical education. Actually, this period must not be missed.
Thanks for this great work
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflicts of interest

Ghada Mansour - (25/04/2020)
A great article that portrays an utmost important topic nowadays. The emergence of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has urged all educators to shift to virtual learning. Many were not properly prepared to implement this transition, to excel the use of all aspects of virtual tools, and to modify their courses accordingly. The main concern for most of faculty was to make sure that the scientific material is delivered to their students. The article, though an opinion article and a case study, tackled this situation very precisely, by highlighting the challenges faced by medical education during this crisis and emphasizing the need and importance of faculty development to master digital transformation, since this is the best evidence-based tool to improve their competencies, and to improve student engagement as well.
nazdar alkhateeb - (25/04/2020)
Informative case study and provide a piece of a practical solution to the current situation especially for developing countries where the technologies were not so much involved in the teaching and learning process.
Nagwa Kostandy Kalleny Nasrallah Nasrallah - (24/04/2020)
An interesting article that contains a well informed case study which gives best understanding of the current critical situation, and reflecting the importance of using technology in education. Keep up the great work. Thank you.
Ahmed Ismail - (24/04/2020)
Informative and precise.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflict of interest

Enas Attia - (24/04/2020)
Informative to the point article
Noha Elrafie - (24/04/2020)
This article is a combination of a reflection on the current situation where face to face learning has halted all together and its impact on the principals if higher education. Given the extraordinary circumstances we are facing, there has become a need to raise questions related to the quality of education and the learning environment that impact of the educational transformation steps on student learning. Given the concept that this is simply an opinion article that raises a flag rather than offers solutions, its main idea is to direct attention to a need to re-establish a faculty development need that dis not exist before which is the skill to adapt educational concepts and strategies to the new digital transformation.
Wesam Osman - (24/04/2020)
Good work and informative
Julie Hunt - (24/04/2020) Panel Member Icon
The authors describe the problem of technology-weak faculty who are subsequently trained using a remote intervention to use zoom conferencing in the COVID-19 pandemic. The intervention is reasonably well described, though the survey assessing it is only briefly mentioned. The article adds minimally to the already published work on this topic but may have been of more use if the YouTube weblinks were provided, particularly those in English, as they could have been used for training faculty at other institutions.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

For transparency, I am an Associate Editor of MedEdPublish. However I have posted this review as a member of the review panel with relevant expertise and so this review represents a personal, not institutional, opinion.

Waleed Elguindy - (24/04/2020)
Precise and informative article. Thank you.
Mervat Mansour - (24/04/2020)
I found it an early important analysis of how changing learning and teaching from usual face to face model to E- learning model affect acquisition of knowledge
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflict of interest

Trevor Gibbs - (24/04/2020) Panel Member Icon
At this difficult time in the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all sharing ideas and thoughts on how we teach our students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. We need to share, we need to explore and we need to implement and evaluate.
At the same time, and from an academic point of view, we need to recognise quality in our ideas and suggestions.
Although I congratulate the authors' thoughts and actions on how they are intending to deal with student teaching, I am not sure that this paper adds anything new to what we have been discussing for many weeks now and i do not feel that I could recommend it to those working in the area.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

For transparency, I am one of the Associate Editors of MedEdPublish

Hany W. Abdel Malak - (24/04/2020)
Excellent work reflects real time and ongoing discussions about the value of transformation to distance learning. A lot of efforts are done and also a lot of problems was emerged. This rapid unorganized shift leads to what is called online crisis format or OCF with a lot of efforts to compensate for sudden drop of face to face learning with lockdown but these efforts is far beyond organization as to apply TEL (technology enhanced learning) you should first plane then implement it in curriculum with continuous faculty development followed by a definite system of monitoring and evaluating the outcome. Also the problem of final student assessment and how it goes, remain a matter of continuous debate and discussion. Also student involvement, motivation, participation and also innovation still need a lot of work and organization.
Salwa Fouad Oshiba - (24/04/2020)
I strongly recommend this article as a beneficial one for online learning and use of recent technology facilities in different universities. I advise everyone interested in this field to read it.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflict of interest

mariam asaad amin ibrahim - (24/04/2020)
Amazing work
Maissa Afifi - (24/04/2020)
An important issue ,interesting, , to the point,informative and extremely recommended in this current situation .Many thanks.
Amr Abdelzaher - (24/04/2020)
Excellent and very useful article, of course will help too much in the future process of learning which may be the principle way for education.Thanks too much.👏🏻👏🏻👍🏻💐
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflicts if interest

Nayera Mostafa - (24/04/2020)
Useful article at a critical situation
Mostafa Mahran - (24/04/2020)
I found this article informative and interesting, thank you
waleed Hamed Ali - (24/04/2020)
Very important article towards the new era
Nagwa Hegazy - (24/04/2020)
This article is a good reality reflection of the current situation where face to face learning has stopped all around the globe.Given the extraordinary circumstances we are facing, there has become a need to raise questions related to the quality of education and the learning environment that impact of the educational transformation steps on student learning. Given the concept that this is simply an opinion article that raises a flag rather than offers solutions, its main idea is to direct attention to a need to reestablish a faculty development need that do not exist before which is the skill to adapt educational concepts and strategies to the new digital transformation.
The educational world map is changing and we need to adapt that change smoothly and efficiently.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflict

Moustafa Abdellah - (24/04/2020)
This is unique paper that targets our attention to the new era after Covid19. It is of great importance that we should realize that world after that pandemic will not as that before. So every thing will be changed; including the learning strategies. We should direct our efforts to find solutions to these challenges.
Possible Conflict of Interest:

No conflicts of interest

Puja Dulloo - (24/04/2020)
Interesting article great reflection of the present technology based teaching. I enjoyed reading it. Present hour has generated need for faculties to enhance their digital skills to deliver virtual session to students for continues teaching learning process. The global condition has motivated some faculties to present their innovative digital teaching approaches, while dragged some from their routine comfort zone.
Virtual platform of teaching sessions has opened newer avenues for faculties to initiate interactive flipped session even after this pandemic comes to halt. Video presentations of practical demonstration are conducted by many faculties in various institutes. Question which are unanswered are from student end. Have student understood the topic, they probable are enjoying these virtual portals but are they attaining the learning outcome as per the expectation of the medical curriculum.
Feedback for the formative assessment is also an issue which needs to be looked for. Feedback mostly is virtual, in the form of answer to the question, rather than face to face or verbal explanation of strength and weakness.

Possible Conflict of Interest:


Ayman Ibrahim - (24/04/2020)
Outstanding reflection on technology related needed training. It has been an abrupt transition from a world where technology use in education was just an add on that we were trying to promote to a fact of life. As this transition started to occur we started realizing a complete shift of focus to technology related trainings. The demand became exceptionally high but on the other hand despite all the efforts exerted education specially in medical schools became on rocky grounds. It is time someone raises an issue ti be taken into consideration for future post COVID-19 planning. Great work. Thank you
Ola Gomaa - (24/04/2020)
I believe tnat this publication, tbough a case study, highly contributes to the role of technology in overcoming the drastic change that took place in the learning process during COVID-19 time. This publication can in anaolgy be applied to scientific research as well. Overcoming the cancellation of workshops and practical trainings can be an obstacle but by introducing virtual labs for example, this problem maybe overcome. This publications opens up the floor for discussion beyond medical education.
Tom Grimwood - (23/04/2020)
This opinion piece raises some very prescient questions facing medical educators today, attempting to juggle the principles of Higher Education with the realpolitik.
To this end, I feel that the paper is of two halves: the first raises the issues facing educators, the second provides a case study of measures taken to address some of these issues. In their current form, both are somewhat lacking, in my view.
It is not clear what core principles were forgotten, and how this happened; it also overlooks the fact that "blended learning" has now become the norm in many areas of medical education which already requires a certain amount of technical proficiency from staff. Is it the case that the current crisis has exposed that our pretensions to deliver a range of teaching methods is, in fact, limited by a lack of technological knowledge? I wonder if these precise issues could be made clearer.
With regards the case study, it could also be clearer what the learning or viewpoint to arise from this is; or how the use of this medium could be developed or adapted to link back to the core principles of education mentioned in the first half. This would also help to support the paper's claims that it is engagement mechanisms that need to be developed further - at the moment, this is not strongly present in the case study or description of the problem.