Reader and Industry Forum

IACLE Embraces Technology to Provide Education Globally

Reader and Industry Forum

IACLE Embraces Technology to Provide Education Globally


Ipsita Hom Roy is a final-year optometry student at Manipal University in the Indian state of Karnataka. Together with teaching staff and other students, she is watching a live lecture on corneal topography from contact lens educator Dr. Shehzad Naroo, who is in his office at Aston University in Birmingham, U.K.

Ms. Roy is one of many students and educators who have taken part in a program of online lectures, broadcast live in countries around the world, developed by the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE) with support from its sponsors within the contact lens industry.


Established 35 years ago, IACLE is dedicated to raising the standard of contact lens education and to promoting the safe use of contact lenses worldwide. Live online Web Lectures are just one of several initiatives to support this aim that the organization introduced following major changes to its leadership and membership structure.

Dr. Naroo became IACLE president in 2011, with Professor Philip Morgan of the University of Manchester, U.K. as vice president. Membership was simplified to encourage more educators and associates in industry to join.

IACLE was registered as a not-for-profit corporation in Ontario, Canada, where Director of Operations Bonnie Boshart is based, relocating its secretariat from Australia. At the same time, its annual general meeting moved to Europe to coincide with the British Contact Lens Association’s (BCLA) Clinical Conference, which attracts delegates from more than 40 countries each year.

But for Dr. Naroo, the main step forward for IACLE has been extending its global reach (Table 1). “Embracing technology has been an important development for us. The ability to deliver distance-learning programs, and especially live lectures reaching multiple institutions simultaneously, allows international engagement directly with keynote speakers in the field,” he said.

Table 1 IACLE in Numbers
891 members in 75 countries
Three regions: Asia Pacific, Americas, and Europe/Middle East-Africa
Three shared secretariats: in Canada, Australia, and India
Five local offices: Tianjin, China; Shanghai, China; Korea; Indonesia; and Peru
Seven global priority countries: Taiwan, Mexico, India, Russia, Brazil, Korea, and China
636 institutions reached in 2013
22,260 students reached in 2013 (Figure 1)
171 Resource Centres worldwide
253 educational hours in 2013

Figure 1. IACLE reached more than 22,000 students in 2013. Here students participate in a hands-on workshop.

Advancing the Program

IACLE’s Web Lectures were first piloted by Dr. Naroo via Skype at a hospital training center in Pakistan. Director of Educational Programs Nilesh Thite then began using the WebEx platform to broadcast live to four priority institutions in India.

Since then, lectures have been shared across the Americas, with educators and students in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Perú among those participating. More lectures are planned in China, Korea, and Taiwan.

IACLE coordinates these events with local members in priority countries, arranges the speakers, and works with educators to set the topics. Lectures typically last about 45 minutes and are followed by a question-and-answer session. Students are encouraged to contact presenters afterward if they wish.

“I’ve delivered lectures to up to 14 institutions signed in worldwide. It’s the first time we’ve had so many,” said Dr. Naroo. “We have such a reach with these lectures and so many students potentially taking part. It’s amazing to think of people sitting listening to you thousands of miles away. And the feedback we get from the students is very positive, they’re very appreciative.”

Ms. Roy has certainly found the experience valuable. She has already attended four Web Lectures delivered by educators from the United Kingdom and India. “The lectures give us the opportunity to hear experts from different parts of the world, and they will help us go on to be successful clinicians. This method of teaching and learning will definitely add value to contact lens practice,” she said.

Helpful Resources

IACLE is the leading provider of educational and information resources for contact lens educators worldwide. Schools and colleges of optometry in North America are supported by the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators (AOCLE), yet many of IACLE’s resources are used by educators and their students in the United States. The two organizations share resources, and AOCLE’s chairperson sits on the IACLE executive board. In addition, two IACLE members attend the annual AOCLE workshop each year.

The IACLE Contact Lens Course, currently undergoing a comprehensive update, is a 10-module program of lectures, practical sessions, and tutorials that members can download and use in teaching.

The Distance Learning Program is a self-study program to help new educators improve their own contact lens knowledge and teaching skills. Student Trial Exams can be used to test final-year and postgraduate students’ knowledge.

The IACLE Case Report Series comprises 20 interactive, problem-based presentations for use in tutorials and lectures or as a self-study aid for students. Along with other multimedia resources, these are all available free to members in several languages via the IACLE website. Members also receive Information Interface, an email service with links to key papers from journals and other sources, and a monthly e-newsletter.

IACLE’s Fellowship Program allows successful candidates to apply for FIACLE status in recognition of their contact lens knowledge and skill. Held every two years, the latest Fellowship Exam took place in November 2013, with more than 100 members successfully completing the exam.

Train the Trainer and Members’ Meetings are also held regularly in priority countries, and Dr. Naroo regards these as a crucial part of IACLE’s work. “The meetings ensure that educators have confidence in passing on their skills and sharing ideas for good practice. The lack of confidence, rather than ability, of some trainers sometimes surprises me, so IACLE helps to tease out these qualities.”

Rewarding Achievements

While many of IACLE’s resources and programs are well established, plans are in place to raise its profile further. In 2013, the association introduced its first Travel Award, which enables a member who would otherwise be unable to attend the BCLA conference the opportunity to take part.

This year, with initial sponsorship from CooperVision and support from the BCLA, the awards were extended to recognize and reward achievements in contact lens education worldwide, with an IACLE Contact Lens Educator of the Year Award for each of the three regions. The first awards were presented at the 38th BCLA conference, which took place at the ICC Birmingham, U.K. in June, to Dr. Rajeswari Mahadevan (Asia Pacific Region), Dr. Sergio Garcia (Americas Region), and Dr. Eef van der Worp (Europe/Africa - Middle East Region).

The Third IACLE World Congress on Contact Lens Education, taking place in Manchester, U.K. in May 2015, will host educators and industry partners for a four-day meeting to coincide with the BCLA conference in Liverpool, U.K. With leading international educators presenting, the aim is to set the educational scene for the next decade.

IACLE is also considering the potential for a virtual conference as well as a global awareness event to promote contact lenses in the education sector and beyond.

Challenging Times

IACLE is working to identify and help resolve the many challenges facing the contact lens industry and the eyecare profession today, which are different in different markets. “In Asia-Pacific, the challenge would be to increase the number of trained practitioners to increase the contact lens market,” said Dr. Naroo. “In Europe, the challenge may be related to dropout, and in North America it may be the Internet, which challenges the traditional retail model of contact lenses.

“What IACLE can do is train future generations to ensure there’s a market that they can move in to,” he added. “Without those trained educators, there won’t be trained professionals, so there won’t be a market. It’s a long-term approach.”

But Dr. Naroo believes the ultimate beneficiary of IACLE’s work is the patients. “IACLE’s mission is to ensure that wherever someone goes to have contact lenses fitted, they are seen by a skilled practitioner, their aftercare is done by a skilled practitioner, and the management of their contact lens needs is by a skilled practitioner.

“In turn, this will mean happier patients, happier practitioners—because their patients are more loyal and less likely to drop out of wearing contact lenses—and happier manufacturers, because the whole sector will grow and invest in better products for patients for the safe future of contact lenses,” Dr. Naroo said.

What’s Next for IACLE

IACLE plans to extend its role to new parts of the world. “In addition to our priority countries, we’re looking to increase our presence in Africa. There are good opportunities in East African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia, where there are trained professionals who want to move education forward,” said Dr. Naroo.

IACLE has also been approached by two Middle Eastern countries—Qatar and Saudi Arabia—where it traditionally has not had a major presence. “The Middle East and Africa may need to be a separate region or regions because their requirements are different from Europe and they have different levels of training,” explained Dr. Naroo.

Back at Manipal University, Ms. Roy’s teacher Premjit Bhakat is already seeing the benefits of being part of a global community. “We’ve had good experience with IACLE. It’s helped us increase our knowledge and become better practitioners. And with IACLE’s help, we’re in touch with major educators and researchers in contact lenses.”

With continued support from its members and industry partners (Table 2), IACLE hopes to help many more students like Ms. Roy in the future and to increase the number of skilled contact lens practitioners around the world. Dr. Naroo explains: “We make the best possible use of the sponsorship we receive, and our return on investment is increasing the number of lens wearers worldwide through excellent education. It’s great that key people across industry share this ethos.” CLS

Table 2 IACLE’s Industry Partners
Alcon has once again committed to supporting IACLE as Platinum sponsor in 2014. Long-term supporters at the Silver level are CooperVision and the Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. At the Bronze level is Bausch + Lomb (B+L).
Alcon has been supporting IACLE for more than 20 years, at the Platinum level since 2000. The company is actively involved in IACLE at country, regional, and international levels and is a key member of the IACLE Industry Advisory Board. CooperVision, The Vision Care Institute, and B+L are also key members of the Advisory Board and have worked with each other and IACLE to help develop the organization’s strategic goals.

This article is based on a feature first published in the U.K. journal Optician. For more information, visit Sample Web Lectures can be viewed on IACLE’s YouTube channel.

Alison Ewbank is special projects editor at the U.K. publication Optician.