Online Medical Schools – Fact or Fiction?
Online medical schools might seem like a good idea, but the sad truth is that they do not exist. To become a doctor, it is very important to work directly with patients under the guidance of experienced physicians. This is not possible in the online setting. Also, medical school training involves a significant amount of time spent in the anatomy lab, often dissecting cadavers. Again, this is something that cannot take place online.
You can learn more about the medical school curriculum and overall training here. For a brief overview, during the first two years you will be doing book work, just like you did in undergrad. For my tips on choosing classes that will help you in medical school, click here. The second two years you will spend in the hospital seeing patients. This is probably the most important part of your education. You’re really learning how to be a doctor. How would you like to go see a doctor who had never seen a live patient, but did all his training on a computer? Not a comforting thought, right? That’s why online medical schools just don’t exist.
However, there is a trend towards letting medical students do a large amount of their coursework during first and second year online. For example, UCLA medical school where I attended has pretty limited time in class. We spent about 10 hours per week in required activities. Lectures were recorded and not required, so I suppose you could call our lectures “online medical school.”
There are two real champions of this online learning system that I’m aware of:
Ohio State University
Ohio State actually could be classified as an online medical school for the first two years of training. You can choose two main tracks for your education: the integrated path or the independent study path. For either track, you begin with time spent in the anatomy lab. After this initial 10 weeks, you can choose between the two paths.
The integrated path is more “traditional,” with time spent in lectures and small groups during the first two years.
The independent study path is done almost exclusively online. Students study from materials provided by the school on their own. When I was interviewing at the school, one of the students told me that the independent study path students actually did better on the USMLE Step 1.
There are definitely pros and cons to either of these tracks. The independent study path could be very isolating. You might know very few of your classmates. However, if you live with family you might not care too much about that. Or you might just prefer to spend time by yourself. Aos, you had better be very self-motivated if you choose the independent study track. No one will be pushing you to get things done so if you procrastinate, it could be easy to get behind.
The integrated path lets you meet and work with your classmates, which can be a bonus. You’ll also have the positive peer pressure to get things done on time.
Mercer University medical school in Macon, Georgia is the other school that could be classified as an online medical school. Here, students never attend lectures. They meet with small groups three times per week working on cases. The rest of the time is spent on independent study, most of it likely online. Again, there are pros and cons to this kind of approach. However, with this situation you at least are working with small groups and getting to know your classmates during your first two years.
So, if you’re looking for a purely online medical school, you’re out of luck. But, more and more medical schools are looking towards using the internet and multimedia to teach the medical school curriculum in the first and second years.
However, nothing will ever take the place of your clinical years during your third and fourth year of medical school. Here you will still spend time in the hospital and in doctors’ clinics learning how to practice medicine. This is extremely important as those years are really when you learn to be a doctor.
So, if someone offers you an exclusively online school, don’t believe them! That school will not award you an MD or DO degree and just wants your money.