In the age of COVID-19, online learning has become an essential tool for education. Around the world, students are learning from home, using smart phones, tablets and personal computers to connect with their teachers and peers. But what about when your education involves learning retinal laser procedures and developing treatment plans? Even in the pre-COVID-19 world, teaching retinal laser was already challenging: Until the student operated on a live patient, there wasn’t a real way to discuss treatment strategies.
As a result — and long before the pandemic hit — OD-OS GmbH (Teltow, Germany) was already developing a new interactive technology to facilitate this education: NAVIGATE, a free iPad app that allows students and teachers to develop retinal laser treatment plans in a controlled environment (separate from operating the laser itself). Designed as a tool to support education (on-site and online), the app allows students to develop strategies for different cases using preloaded or custom images from OCT, OCT-A or FA. The app does not need to be used with NAVILAS, OD-OS’s flagship retinal laser.
“We didn’t do this because of coronavirus . . . but especially now, it is an interactive tool that can be helpful. And of course, it can be helpful afterwards as well,” said Stefanie Gehrke, Director of Marketing at OD-OS. The platform is already being used successfully in German university hospitals with overwhelmingly positive feedback by educators and participants.
There’s an App for That
According to Ms. Gehrke, the app was developed to help bridge the gap between theory and practice. “This can help residents learn how to treat specific diseases and cases… and develop a thoughtful treatment strategy and practice,” said Ms. Gehrke, adding that it’s also a fun way to learn. To produce a simulation, NAVIGATE uses diagnostic images and overlays laser spots — this helps get a better impression of the planned surgery (i.e. where the laser spots are planned and their spacing). “You are basically using multimodal imaging to create a laser treatment plan,” continued Ms. Gehrke.
Power settings cannot be simulated using the app, but application specific case libraries can be requested from OD-OS. Those libraries contain a number of cases and also a module for students to classify laser lesions based on the power uptake they see on images. “By talking with our users and doctors, we recognized the challenge of teaching long ago,” shared Ms. Gehrke, adding that the NAVIGATE app can be used by anyone with a pattern laser . . . especially in institutions with a teaching interest.
Could this be a wet lab for modern times? “Well, it cannot fully replace the wet lab — students still need to sit in front of the laser and learn how to treat,” explained Ms. Gehrke. “However, it can replace parts, and also add a more practical component to theoretical sessions in preparation for the hands-on parts of wet labs.”
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Thanks to COVID-19, students and teachers around the world are discovering new ways to learn together. When OD-OS tested NAVIGATE, it was during on-site classes with two to three students sharing one iPad. However, the app is also ideal for online learning: Treatment plans developed using NAVIGATE can be discussed over a videoconference with teachers and other students.
The app also could be used during webinars: “Participants could connect their iPad to the webinar and share the screen . . . this is an interactive way to present case examples,” said Ms. Gehrke. “Students can also follow along at home on their own iPads and parallel the exercise, adding to the interactive experience.”
The free app is currently available on iPads and can be found by searching OD-OS in the Apple App Store. NAVIGATE comes loaded with three demo cases, however, other libraries are available on request from email@example.com to develop strategies and practice treatment.