Session 4B | Paper 2 Virtual teaching clinics during COVID-19 at a university optometry school-lessons learnt

Dr Ahalya Subramanian – Senior Lecturer  City, University of London – School of Health Sciences, Division of Optometry and Visual Sciences


Purpose: To describe the challenges that arose on a clinical under graduate optometry module as a result of COVID-19, the innovations (virtual teaching clinics) that have resulted from these challenges along with the benefits and pitfalls and plans for post-COVID teaching.

Methods: COVID-19 necessitated all optometry teaching apart from practical teaching to move online (1). Due to space limitations in the clinic and the vulnerable nature of service users who normally attend Visual Impairment (VI) clinics a decision was made to run VI clinics virtually. NHS X guidance on virtual clinics was followed (2). Virtual teaching clinics were held through Zoom (3). Service users were recruited through the clinic’s volunteer database and contacted in advance to explain what would happen during the session and to practice using Zoom. This also provided an opportunity to answer questions. Students received a synchronous tutorial about the structure of the clinic, including expectations during the clinic (e.g. videos need to be on). They joined the virtual clinic 15 minutes prior to its start to revisit the structure and expectations. During the clinic students took it in turn to ask questions (history). Measurements of visual function were made using tests that had been posted in advance to the service user (4). At the end of the clinic advice was given to the service user. Once the service user left students received feedback (5).

Discussion and conclusion: Virtual teaching clinics received good student feedback. There were advantages (e.g. low clinic cancellation rate due to service user illness) and disadvantages (e.g. students could not physically handle visual devices) of running virtual clinics and an audit is due to be carried. Most shortcomings were overcome with self-directed practical learning exercises.  Approval has been obtained to continue running virtual clinics in line with anticipated changes to future clinical practice.

Slides from the session

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Recording of the session:

Paper 2 starts from 22:41 into the recording.


Jonuscheit, Sven, Andrew K. C. Lam, Katrina L. Schmid, John Flanagan, Raul Martin, and David Troilo. “COVID-19: Ensuring Safe Clinical Teaching at University Optometry Schools.” Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics 41, no. 1 (2021): 144–56.

NHSX. “COVID-19 IG Advice.” Accessed May 7, 2021.

Zoom Video. “Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing, Webinars, Screen Sharing.” Accessed May 7, 2021.

Crossland, Michael D., Tessa M. Dekker, Joanne Hancox, Matteo Lisi, Thomas A. Wemyss, and Peter B. M. Thomas. “Evaluation of a Home-Printable Vision Screening Test for Telemedicine.” JAMA Ophthalmology, January 7, 2021.

Subramanian, Ahalya. “Remote Visual Impairment Teaching Clinics during COVID-19 at a University Optometry School.” Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics 41, no. 3 (2021): 630–31.

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