How does a program provide clinical education when a university clinic is closed to patients? Clinical educators of audiology at Illinois State University had to answer this question during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Initially, there were limited options for audiology clinicians in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), but the clinical educators took on the challenge to understand and create resources for student instruction. To provide simulation education, clinical educators sought research for what others had already done. The Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) provided several webinars, as well as a recent podcast-related entirely to learning via simulation. Clinical educators obtained many tips, recommendations, models, and resources to conquer the steep learning curve that accompanies simulation education delivery. These sources of information emphasized three key elements of simulation education: pre-brief, brief, and debrief.

Pre-brief instruction is designed to familiarize students with the learning platform, expectations, and learning objectives. Debrief techniques are focused on open-ended questions, concept clarification, and peer feedback. Clinical educators facilitate learning with increased connections among concepts so students grow in their critical thinking; learning is enhanced because clinical educators encourage students to layer various techniques and concepts.

Audiology staff reached out to  speech-language pathology colleagues, who have utilized the simulated education learning platform, Simucase, for several years. AudSim Flex was another simulated learning platform adopted during this time. AudSim Flex utilizes a simulated diagnostic audiometer for pure-tone air and bone conduction testing, both masked and unmasked. This platform was appropriate for basic and advanced audiology education. Pure-tone masking is one of the trickiest concepts to master, and this platform provided students with valuable access to practice this skill online. Students benefited from four instructional modes, and multiple methods of practice in AudSim Flex which are not available in a face-to-face patient interaction.

The Illinois State audiology clinical educators also obtained case study materials to create their own cases; these cases specifically addressed clinical competencies that are difficult to obtain during in-person experiences. These case studies incorporated opportunities to practice and develop important counseling skills.

The various models were combined and tailored for each group of students, according to their education level. Students met weekly with clinical educators via Zoom to complete  instructional conversations about the remote learning experiences. Dr. Candice Osenga, director for Clinical Education for audiology students, expressed her appreciation for clinical educators and students during this unexpected experience:

“I’m so proud of our students and our clinical educators for making the quick change from in-person patient care to clinical simulations for continued student learning to meet the student’s need for clinical hours and competencies. Everyone showed tremendous levels of flexibility, grit, motivation and reflection during this time to make the best of the remote learning.”