Osmosis Articles: You Miss School, You Miss Out

Pinak Joshi
Jul 8, 2015

When I started first grade, there was one day when my entire class was given a creative homework assignment. Each of us was given a video tape (yes, for a VCR), and we were told to watch the entirety of the video so that we could recite a secret sentence which was whispered at the very end. The film was about the importance of school, the benefits of friendship, and the dangers of not doing well academically if we missed a class. So, as the diligent first grader that I was, I recited the secret phrase “you miss school, you miss out” to my teacher, and received my prize: a gold star on the wall and a purple wooden pencil with the secret phrase written on the side.

Now as a medical student, I still have the purple pencil. I keep it hidden in a box next to my Pokemon cards, Gameboy Color and other socially unacceptable relics of the 90's. Oddly enough, I’ve noticed that I have remained strangely adherent to the mantra of the purple pencil. Throughout my schooling, I rarely ever skipped class even when I was sick — a trait, I’ve learned, which is shared by many of my most dedicated classmates over the years.

All of this changed during my first semester of medical school. The first few days were spent shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow future doctors, all of us nervously punching down every note that could give the slightest advantage on an exam. As the weeks drew on, fewer and fewer students came to class — opting instead to dedicate that time to studying, and later watching the lectures online at 2X speed. By the end of the semester, I too skipped a few lectures. Why? The answer is simple: Time. On any typical weekday, I spent 5–6 hours of my day literally sitting in a seat and listening to a professor deliver a presentation.

My situation is not at all unique. Medical education is different than many other fields in how quickly students are expected to learn and master difficult material. In the US and Canada, two short preclinical years are all that is afforded for students to completely understand how the body normally functions, how it responds to various states of illness, and the basics of treating patients who suffer from those illnesses. On top of that, students are continuously bettering their bedside manner in patient-doctor encounters. It’s no wonder that more and more of us are choosing to speed through low-yield information in lectures so that they can spend more time with material that is more often tested on exams.

Skipping classes does come with its own risks, including:

  • Missing out on something said before the lecture and not being recorded

  • Not concentrating when watching lectures and being behind pace with the class

  • Missing out on opportunities to ask questions after lecture and network with fellow classmates in person

In spite of these potential hindrances, more and more of us are choosing to come to lectures less frequently — so much so that some teachers have even implemented an attendance policy.

It remains unclear what a medical school lecture hall would look like 5 or 10 years from now. MedEd is still at the infancy of adopting new technologies like Osmosis, which integrate different types of learning strategies into their platform in order to enrich each school’s curriculum, and each student’s performance. However it is certain that the traditional ‘sage on stage’ will be talking to a student body with more tools than ever to master lessons quickly and efficiently.