Background: Recent work has highlighted the tremendous potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in advancing global oncology education, research and care. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the development of effective approaches for online education even more crucial. Here we assessed the readiness, interest and potential models for effective implementation of ICT-powered oncology education in Africa.
Methods: Building on previous work by the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), a survey was conducted to assess the electronic learning (e-Learning) readiness of oncology health professionals using an online self-assessment tool. Components of e-Learning readiness assessed include access to computers, Internet, appropriate bandwidth and interest. As a practical test model, an ICT resource-intensive radiation oncology training programme was implemented via the Global Oncology University (GO-U) collaborative education platform. An analysis of results, challenges and opportunities resulting from these is discussed for advancing online oncology education in Africa.
Results: The survey showed over 92% of health professionals have access to computers, laptops or other technology that can allow them to participate in online education. Over 45% of oncology health professionals have already participated in some form of online education. Interest in online education was over 93%. Models for effective online learning in oncology include synchronous and asynchronous short-term courses for continuous education and long-term degree and residency programmes. There was a significant increase in skills level following the collaborative radiation oncology training model used by the GO-U platform.
Conclusion: Africa has the capacity to implement successful e-Learning in oncology, which is consistent with findings in previous work such as the AORTIC. Greater investment by institutions and governments is needed in terms of resources and policy changes to facilitate the implementation of effective online oncology training. Purposeful engagement of diaspora oncology health professionals with relevant cultural backgrounds as with some current collaborative efforts is highly recommended in helping turn brain drain into brain circulation.