Distributed and Distance Learning

Distributed and Distance Learning

In 2021, WFME published a new set of standards for medical education – WFME Standards for Distributed and Distance Learning in Medical Education (DDL). The WFME Standards for DDL concern the method and management of education for students who are distributed across geographical locations. The standards can be used either in full or in part.

The immediate stimulus for the creation of these standards was the Covid-19 pandemic that made medical educators think about appropriate ways of teaching students in a situation when face-to-face education was not always possible. However, distance and distributed learning were present in medical education for many year prior to that and continue to be a valuable part of the curriculum. 

Distributed and distance learning is defined as a varied and planned course of study, designed and developed to address the curriculum for students who are in different locations away from the central teaching institution, supported by teaching and supervisory staff who are also physically or virtually distributed across those locations. Distributed and distance learning is a whole-systems approach, including all teaching and learning, formative and summative assessments, feedback on learning, support for students and teachers, management, and quality assurance. Distributed and distance learning can encompass technology-based and non-technology-based educational methods and experiences. It might refer to an entire course, or a part of it.

The standards address distributed and distance learning as an approach to medical education and training, in general. A medical school might want to adopt this as part of their course, while students are attached to facilities in the community or in other locations. Or a school might adopt this approach as the basis of a community-based course. It might be a response to shortages of central teaching staff.

The standards for distributed and distance learning focus on method, rather than on mission and values, or curriculum. These standards therefore can be used alongside the relevant WFME standards for basic or postgraduate medical education, or for continuing professional development.

As with all WFME standards, these standards are not mandatory. We hope that they will provide an advisory framework for local decision-making.

The standards are organised in eight areas: scope and accountability, course design, course production, assessment, student support, academic and clinical teachers, course management and records, and quality assurance.

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