Methods: The virtual microbiology lab sessions were conducted twice in 2018 each including 80, third-year medical students. Clinical cases were used to build upon foundational knowledge. We live-streamed video and audio content from the clinical microbiology lab to a remote classroom via the Zoom videoconferencing platform. We conducted the session as a tour and lively interview with microbiology staff who explained the processing as well as diagnostic testing methods. Students were able to ask questions. To evaluate the sessions we (1) distributed a quantitative survey using a 5 point Likert scale (5=strongly agree) and (2) conducted focus groups with learners. Qualitative data was analyzed using open and axial coding.
Results: In a questionnaire administered to 160 students, 74% of respondents agreed that the technical aspects and faculty in the session provided the feeling on a “hands-on” tour. Of the respondents, 58% reported that they would be more likely to contact the microbiology lab team for help in ordering or interpreting various lab tests. In focus groups, learner reflections reinforced the ability of this format to ensure standardization with each student getting to clearly see the demonstration and hear instructor perspectives. Students also appreciated the linear approach of following a specimen from arrival to the lab, a better understanding of the lab staff and their roles in performing and interpreting laboratory tests. The live feed could be enhanced further by better audio and video synchronization and by reducing ambient noise.
Conclusion: Videoconferencing with the clinical microbiology lab can be used to effectively teach microbiology and infectious diseases content to advanced medical students. Whether this exposure to the microbiology lab can enhance patient care outcomes requires further study.