An e-learning application on electrochemotherapy

Selma Corovic, Janez Bester, Damijan Miklavcic
Biomedical Engineering Online 2009, 8: 26

BACKGROUND: Electrochemotherapy is an effective approach in local tumour treatment employing locally applied high-voltage electric pulses in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs. In planning and performing electrochemotherapy a multidisciplinary expertise is required and collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts from different scientific fields such as medicine, biology and biomedical engineering is needed. The objective of this study was to develop an e-learning application in order to provide the educational content on electrochemotherapy and its underlying principles and to support collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts involved in the research and clinics.

METHODS: The educational content on electrochemotherapy and cell and tissue electroporation was based on previously published studies from molecular dynamics, lipid bilayers, single cell level and simplified tissue models to complex biological tissues and research and clinical results of electrochemotherapy treatment. We used computer graphics such as model-based visualization (i.e. 3D numerical modelling using finite element method) and 3D computer animations and graphical illustrations to facilitate the representation of complex biological and physical aspects in electrochemotherapy. The e-learning application is integrated into an interactive e-learning environment developed at our institution, enabling collaboration and knowledge exchange among the users. We evaluated the designed e-learning application at the International Scientific workshop and postgraduate course (Electroporation Based Technologies and Treatments). The evaluation was carried out by testing the pedagogical efficiency of the presented educational content and by performing the usability study of the application.

RESULTS: The e-learning content presents three different levels of knowledge on cell and tissue electroporation. In the first part of the e-learning application we explain basic principles of electroporation process. The second part provides educational content about importance of modelling and visualization of local electric field in electroporation-based treatments. In the third part we developed an interactive module for visualization of local electric field distribution in 3D tissue models of cutaneous tumors for different parameters such as voltage applied, distance between electrodes, electrode dimension and shape, tissue geometry and electric conductivity. The pedagogical efficiency assessment showed that the participants improved their level of knowledge. The results of usability evaluation revealed that participants found the application simple to learn, use and navigate. The participants also found the information provided by the application easy to understand.

CONCLUSION: The e-learning application we present in this article provides educational material on electrochemotherapy and its underlying principles such as cell and tissue electroporation. The e-learning application is developed to provide an interactive educational content in order to simulate the "hands-on" learning approach about the parameters being important for successful therapy. The e-learning application together with the interactive e-learning environment is available to the users to provide collaborative and flexible learning in order to facilitate knowledge exchange among the experts from different scientific fields that are involved in electrochemotherapy. The modular structure of the application allows for upgrade with new educational content collected from the clinics and research, and can be easily adapted to serve as a collaborative e-learning tool also in other electroporation-based treatments such as gene electrotransfer, gene vaccination, irreversible tissue ablation and transdermal gene and drug delivery. The presented e-learning application provides an easy and rapid approach for information, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts from different scientific fields, which can facilitate development and optimisation of electroporation-based treatments.

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