Teaching psychomotor skills online: exploring the implications of novel coronavirus on health professions education

Amy E. Seymour-Walsh, Anthony Weber, Andy Bell, Tony Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

10 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


CONTEXT: The safe and effective application of psychomotor skills in the clinical environment is a central pillar of the health professions. The current global coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted health professions education (HPE) and has been of particular consequence for routine face-to-face (F2F) skill education for health professionals and clinical students worldwide. What is being experienced on an unprecedented scale parallels a problem familiar to regional, rural and remote health professionals and students: the learners are willing, and the educational expertise exists, but the two are separated by the tyranny of distance. This article considers how the problem of physical distance might be overcome, so that quality skill education might continue. ISSUES: Psychomotor skills are undeniably easier to teach and learn F2F, and training schedules in tertiary, in-service and accredited professional courses reflect this. This aspect of HPE is therefore at significant risk in the context of social distancing and physical isolation. Psychomotor skills are much more complex than the physical motor outputs alone might suggest, and an F2F skill session is only one way to build the complementary aspects of new skill performance. This article argues that educators and course designers can progress with psychomotor skill education from a physical distance. LESSONS LEARNED: Videos can be used to either passively present content to learners or actively engage them. It is the design of the educational activity, rather than the resource medium itself, that enables active engagement. Furthermore, while many training schedules have been adapted to accommodate intensive F2F skill training once it is safe to do so, distributed practice and the need for reflection during the acquisition and development of new skills may challenge the pedagogical effectiveness of this approach. Skill development can be fostered in the absence of F2F teaching, and in the absence of a shared physical space. Embracing the creative licence to do so will improve equitable access to regional, rural and remote clinicians and students well beyond the resolution of the current pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6132
Number of pages6
JournalRural and Remote Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020


  • distance learning
  • experiential learning
  • health professions education
  • mental imagery
  • skill development
  • corporeal literacy


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