Reader and Industry Forum

Technology Transforms Contact Lens Education

Reader and Industry Forum

Technology Transforms Contact Lens Education


According to Judy Perrigin, OD, chair of the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators (AOCLE) and professor of optometry at the University of Houston: “Among the greatest challenges we face as educators is time, and providing large numbers of students with an equal clinical experience. That and money.”

Professor Perrigin’s experience highlights the similarities rather than the differences between contact lens teaching worldwide and the need to harness technology to overcome the common challenges that educators face.

Shaping the Future

Organized by the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE), the Third IACLE World Congress on Contact Lens Education brought together 100 contact lens educators, representing 30 countries around the world. The event aimed to shape the future of education and teach about the latest in classroom technology.

Industry representatives also took part and collaborated on a special business session examining the role of educators in growing global contact lens penetration. IACLE members around the world were able to participate via a live online broadcast (Figure 1). Support from Alcon, CooperVision, and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care enabled IACLE to organize and host the event.

Figure 1. Eef van der Worp, BOptom, PhD, took part in the World Congress via its live online broadcast.

Meeting the Challenge

Educators described how their institutions were preparing to meet current and future demands—whether in Indonesia, where the infrastructure was not adequate to support practical sessions, or in India, where the diagnostic and examination equipment that students experienced might not be available in practice, so clinical sessions needed to mimic the real-world scenario.

The University of Houston was already using a Simulation Lab to demonstrate refractive techniques to students. And, in China—where as many as 70 schools offer a three-year diploma course in optometry—online learning and a virtual fitting center were among the technologies now in use.

One of the greatest challenges for schools is providing hands-on experience with real patients. Craig Woods, PhD, head of clinical partnerships (Optometry) at Deakin University, described its strategy as a unique case-based optometry program in which teams of students work together and meet at intervals to review their progress.

Teaching Technology

Congress Chair and IACLE Vice President Philip Morgan, BSc, PhD, MCOptom, FAAO, professor of optometry at The University of Manchester, which hosted the meeting, said that increased Internet speed and cloud-based technologies had changed the learning environment dramatically. Dr. Morgan shared his insights into systems he had adopted as a university academic, many of which were applicable to any modern work environment.

Speakers then presented their recommended teaching tools, and delegates had the chance to try these first hand (see “10 Smart Tools for Efficient Working and Teaching” on page 56).

New concepts in teaching were also explored. Blended learning combines face-to-face teaching with online content delivery. Examples include the Vision Sciences program at Aston University in the United Kingdom, where virtual presentations and narrated lectures are pre-recorded and placed on the Blackboard (Blackboard Inc.) learning management system.

Students can listen to and print up the lecture before attending an interactive seminar, allowing them to bring in their own experiences and knowledge to practical sessions.

For simulating practical experience, Helen Crompton, PhD, assistant professor of Instructional Technology at Old Dominion University, offered some potential solutions for the future: virtual and augmented reality devices that could create authentic learning opportunities. Delegates had the chance to try out the devices (Figure 2). She also brought along a humanoid robot (Figure 3) to demonstrate how robotics were advancing to become more interactive.

Figure 2. Attendees tried out virtual and augmented reality devices.

Figure 3. Helen Crompton, PhD, used a humanoid robot to show the more interactive nature of technology.

10 Smart Tools for Efficient Working and Teaching

The following products were recommended by presenters at the 3rd IACLE World Congress.

Evernote (Evernote Corporation) aids workflow by storing notes, files, and images across all of your devices and allowing you to share it with others. The product is also fully searchable.

Penultimate (Evernote Corporation) is a useful iPad app for taking electronic handwritten notes in the office.

1Password (AgileBits, Inc.) provides a simple tool for securely creating and storing long, unique passwords.

Blackboard (Blackboard Inc.) is a learning management system that keeps students informed, involved, and collaborating together.

iPads (Apple Inc.) and other mobile devices can be used to “flip the classroom” from the traditional teaching model to a learner-centric approach. You can use it to create ePub content with rich media and interactive features.

AirDrop (Apple Inc.) allows you to send and share any document, image, notes, or presentation between devices without the need for WiFi.

Nearpod (Nearpod) is a presentation and polling app for teaching and other environments. It enables educators to combine several technologies through a single learning platform to create engaging lessons in a “mobile classroom.”

Socrative (MasteryConnect) offers engaging and personalized student assessment and provides instant results to help identify knowledge gaps.

Explain Everything (Explain Everything Inc.) is an effective app for educators to handwrite, draw diagrams, and add text, images, and videos, all on a virtual whiteboard.

Showbie (Showbie Inc.) makes it easy to assign, collect, and review student work, anywhere. This paperless management system has limitless storage.

Traditional teaching methods were not neglected. Catherine Suttle, PhD, from London’s City University, described her approach to incorporating research into teaching and its role in evidence-based practice (EBP), which she recommended for all eyecare practitioners.

Ideas included holding a “journal club” to discuss recent publications in contact lenses, meeting with peers to review real and hypothetical cases, and conducting a critique of the evidence base for contact lens marketing claims. All could easily be adopted by clinicians in practice.

In a session on how to inspire the practitioner of the future, Patrick J. Caroline, FCLSA, FAAO, associate professor of optometry at Pacific University, argued that contact lens specialists needed to enhance their own knowledge and education, commit to lifelong learning, and then they need to communicate that passion to new recruits to the profession.

The Science of Persuasion

Along with technology, a key theme at the World Congress was the role of educators in the business of contact lenses and growing the global contact lens market. Again, there was useful information that could easily be applied in practice.

Ian Davies, vice president of Global Affairs at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, identified three levers to grow the market and reduce dropout: 1) Proactive recommendation; 2) Communication; and 3) Confidence in fitting skills.

But he questioned the absence of topics taught by contact lens educators addressing these critical needs. Instead, an analysis of IACLE courses worldwide showed that specialist fitting techniques and conditions such as keratoconus were among the most commonly covered.

Davies proposed a “core curriculum for change” in which communication of the benefits of contact lenses was the foundation, and lens handling and product selection were given greater prominence compared with ocular examination or complications.

Helmer Schweizer, head of Professional Affairs Distributor Franchise in EURMEA at Alcon Laboratories, Inc., highlighted the “‘and’ opportunity.” To increase the inflow of wearers, educators need to generate excitement about contact lenses among their students, emphasize benefits rather than complications, and teach them to choose the best lens option—or options—for their patients.

Expert in the science of persuasion and a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, Steve Martin, CMCT, director of Influence at Work (UK), described the six principles of influence: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and social proof.

Examples of how these principles were applied to contact lens practice include communicating what patients stood to lose, rather than gain, from failing to comply with lens care instructions, and having them make a written commitment to following your advice.

Pointing out how many people are wearing or starting to wear contact lenses might be a more persuasive communication strategy for growing the market compared to saying how few people currently wear them, he argued.

Turning Point

For Dr. Morgan, the World Congress marked a turning point both in his own outlook on technology in teaching and on the role of educators in the future prospects for growth in contact lens prescribing worldwide.

Delegates would seem to agree. Asked whether they would make any changes to the way they teach contact lenses at their institutions after having participated in the congress, all said that they would.

“This meeting will have a profound effect on how contact lens education is delivered and ultimately how contact lenses are prescribed,” said Dr. Morgan. “That matters to everyone involved, from educators to industry right through to the end user, the patient.” CLS

Alison Ewbank is an optometrist and freelance writer based in the United Kingdom.