e-learning

Trends in online learning: #FOAMed

In recent months RSS feeds and Twitter have been overflowing with mentions of MOOCs, as Cousera, Udacity and EdX continue to attract new university partners and launch growing numbers of courses.  As these big guns have entered the world of MOOCs they’ve attracted lots of attention from the mainstream press, whilst MOOC participants are blogging about their experience as learners on these MOOCs and some of the issues they’ve encountered.

So how about MOOCs and medical education?  Back in January I blogged about an open online anatomy course that Stanford were due to be running in March.  Out of curiosity, I signed up along with a few colleagues, but the course was postponed and it’s not one of the 24 Coursera offerings listed under medicine so who knows if it’s going to go ahead.  I’m sure we’ll see more medical themed MOOCs come on stream from the big players running what are now being referrred to as xMOOCs.  Overall though in terms of online medical education I think there’s another emerging trend that’s more interesting than MOOCs and that’s free open access medical education (#FOAMed).

#FOAMed resources are typically being delivered via blog sites and much of the credit for the emergence and growth of #FOAMed is down to Mike Cadogan and Chris Nickson of Life in the Fast Lane fame and the growing band of emergency medicine bloggers that are following in their footsteps such as the team at St Emlyn’s.

It’s not just all about emergency medicine though, there are growing numbers of clinicians using blogging platforms to support and deliver medical education and particularly at postgraduate and CME level that can be branded as #FOAMed.  One example that’s been gaining momentum over the past year is  #gasclass set up by Sean Williamson and colleagues on Teeside.  #gasclass uses a WordPress blog and Twitter to support case based discussion for trainee anaesthetists.  Set up originally to  support weekly face to face training and discussion of local trainees it now attracts an international audience and is a great example of #FOAMed.  Another example is #ecgclass run by Heather Watherell and her Keeping ECGs Simple blog.  There are other sites and related twitter chats springing up around different medical specialties including urology and public health and a growing list of #FOAMed supporters.

More recently it’s been great to see undergraduate medical students getting involved with #FOAMed activities.  There’s the Twitter Finals Revision Group #twitfrg set up by Faye Bishton.  Each week Faye posts up notes for revision topics for medical students and hosts a Twitter chat on Thursday evenings at 8pm (UK time) and doctors are joining in to provide additional support to this student led initiative. Another student example is Anatomy Zone.

I don’t think the #FOAMed approach is just relevant to medical education, tools such as blogs, twitter and social media are open and accessible to anyone and in essence it’s perhaps another way of describing open educational recources (OER).  Last week I was interested to see some posts in my Feedly feed from Clive Shepherd on Kineo’s Learning Insights 2012 report and one in particular in which he highlighted that elearning is changing and said:

If you want to know about, say, photography – one of my current interests – the first thing you do is go to Google and YouTube. Your search doesn’t lead you to slide shows full of bullet points and multiple-choice questions, but to blogs, Wikipedia articles, screencasts and lots and lots of videos.

You know the detailed information will always be available online so you don’t bother trying to learn any of that. You want the big picture, the important ideas, lots of tips and tricks, and demonstrations of the key skills. If you have questions, you go to the forums. If you want to benchmark your progress against that of your peers, you join groups, share your work and provide helpful critiques to others. We are completely accustomed to learning in this fashion and very satisfied with how well it works. We cannot see why things should be so different at work.

So e-learning design is changing because, more often than not, it’s not traditional e-learning that people want. They’re looking for resources not courses. They want these resources in all sorts of forms – plain text will often do, graphics are nice, but they particularly like video. They are not expecting these resources to be fully-functioning learning objects, that take a learning objective through to its conclusion. Rather they want to pick and choose from a range of materials that can each make a contribution to whatever evolving goals they may have.

We’re looking for a new breed of digital learning content designers. Yes, they will be able to analyse a need and understand an audience but, most importantly, they will be great communicators in a wide variety of media.

It used to be that we turned to text books for resources, but as Clive suggests we’re all increasingly looking online for resources and when we find them we share them.  One of the roles of the doctor is the doctor as teacher and with the advent of #FOAMed what we’re seeing is a new generation of digital medical educators. Educators (or digital learning content designers as Clive describes them) who’ve engaged with technology and used it to create learning resources and enhance learning and create new opportunities for social learning that can both complement and supplement face-to-face and on the job learning.

The interesting thing is that this approach hasn’t emerged out of an institutional top down approach or beacuse of funding calls.  It’s being led by individual doctors who want to improve and enhance medical education and have grasped that technology can help to make resources openly accessible and support online learning.  There are also doctors who’ve started blogging who’s blog posts are also being used to support learning and in turn #FOAMed resources.  Two recent cases that spring to mind include Laura Jane Smith’s post on the Human touch which was posted up on our respiratory teaching blog and shared with our 1st year students and also Jonathan Tomlinson’s post on Shame which medical students were sharing and resharing via the Twitter sphere.

When I took up my current post, Life in the Fast Lane was one of the few medical education blogs around and Mike Cadogan was one of the first doctors I started following on Twitter.  Together with Alan Cann’s MicrobiologyBytes, Sam Webster’s blog and  Jim Groom’s work at University Mary Washington, Mike got me thinking about using blogs to support our undergraduate teaching and that led to an interesting journey for us at Dundee with our VLE.  Four years on it’s clear to see that Mike and his Life in the Fast Lane team are continuing to inspire growing numbers of doctors to embrace free open access medical education.  I hope this a trend that continues.  The future’s bright, the future’s #FOAMed!

Accessing e-learning resources in the NHS

Yesterday I was contributing to a staff development session for ST (specialty training) doctors and my stint was about e-learning.  I talked about content that’s available on the web that can be reused and remixed under a creative commons licence and touching on the tools that support personalising learning and networked learning.  Then I had to say they probbaly wouldn’t be able to access a lot of these sites for on the job teaching because the NHS denies access.  At the end of the session frustrations with the NHS IT infrastructure were raised, issues with old web browsers (IE6) old operating systems (pre XP) and the inability to access useful online resources.  These are all common complaints across different NHS Trusts and it’s why many doctors are keen to have a University PC/Mac on their desk.

The problem of accessing e-learning resources is covered in a short commentary in the latest edition of Medical Education by Prince, Cass and Klaber from King’s College Hospital, London (Medical Education 44 (5) p 436-7). Prince et al highlight the wealth of excellent resources that are being developed and made available but that there is a danger that enthusiastic learners will be unable to access them.  They pick up on a paper published in the same edition looking at accessibility issues in African medical schools due to infrastructure and resourcing issues but go on to draw attention to the significant access problems faced by postgraduate trainees in the NHS.

Prince and his colleagues surveyed doctors across 37 English NHS Trusts in April 2009 to assess the accessibility of online resources to postgraduate trainees.  Unfortunately I can’t see the table with the results referred to in the online version but the paper indicates that many experience blanket ‘internet denial’ leaving them unable to access important clinical resources and download PowerPoint presentation or pdfs of journal articles.  Only 32% could access the The UK Department of Health ‘E-learning for Healthcare’ programme modules.  YouTube is identified as huge source of medical video content which is blocked and likewise there is no access to iTunesU.  The authors go on to say,

Whereas in Africa limited infrastructure is producing an information bottleneck, access in the UK is restricted by ‘denial of service’ restrictions placed upon a competent and fast modern system. Emerging Web 2.0 applications, such as wikis and blogs, provide creative and interactive learning environments within which all learners can contribute and interact, provided they are given ‘write-access’. Shouldn’t we be managing the risks more effectively in order to allow learners the freedom to use IT resources to better effect?

This question is how do we go about managing the risks more effectively to allow NHS staff to access online learning resources and tools which many of us take for granted.  There are understandable concerns about the security of patient information and quite rightly so, I don’t think any of us would disagree that the NHS needs to diligent about this.  It’s also essential that clinical systems take priority in terms of bandwidth, which is the reason sites with streaming video like YouTube and Vimeo are blocked in the NHS.  All of this said individuals working in the health professions are called to be lifelong learners and need access to educational resources which are being increasingly delivered and freely available online.

Is there any dialogue going on at a national level that is seeking to address these issues?  IT projects and the NHS don’t have a good track record, but are there are steps that can be taken to separate  access to educational resources and tools from the clinical and management IT systems.  I agree with Prince and his colleagues who end their short commentary by saying,

There is an urgent need for commissioners, providers and users of e-learning materials to be jointly involved in planning how, when and where resources will be used. Without such a partnership, there is a significant risk that ‘disconnection’ will severely compromise what could be one of our most valuable learning tools.

How do we make this happen?

Death by PowerPoint – Fact or Fiction?

Image by HikingArtist.com – Flickr

I’m working on an assignment at the moment for my PG Cert in Teaching in HE looking at the use of technology in lectures and classroom teaching.  For me e-learning means the use of technology in learning opportunities, but there are still many involved in teaching in HE who are unsure about embracing technology and are concerned about teaching being technology driven etc.  Yet probably most lecturers make use of technology in their face to face teaching in lectures, seminars etc because they use PowerPoint or Keynote as a presentation aid in their teaching.

I think it’s important not to be wowed by technology and to use it just for the sake of it, but rather to think about whether we can use it to help us improve and enhance our teaching.  Using technology can help us to deliver more active learning opportunities to our students and encourage more peer to peer learning and collaborative learning. The question I have is how has the use of PowerPoint enhanced teaching and learning and is there any evidence that it has?  Were chalk and talk and OHPs worse, are our students really experiencing death by powerpoint?  Have we just blindly adopted it to help us transmit information without much thought about our teaching style or how we engage students in lectures?

I’ve got a pile of papers to read through this weekend which will hopefully help me to begin to answer some of these questions and I’d also welcome anyone’s else’s thoughts on the use of PowerPoint in teaching or links to any articles on this.  In the meantime here are a couple of slideshare presentations by Garr Reynolds who runs the Presentation Zen website, which I thought were worth sharing as good examples of Powerpoints but also because they give some helpful tips on designing your slides.  Many thanks to Vicki Davis for the tip off about the first presentation, which I came across on a post on her Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Motivators for engaging in e-learning

One of the things I am reflecting on this week is what motivates teachers to engage with e-learning.  Many of the people I’m starting to interact with via blogs and Twitter are already pretty engaged in e-learning, but what was it that got you motivated to get engaged.  Do you find it easy to get other colleagues engaged?  If you’ve got a a few seconds perhaps you could complete the short poll below.

P.S. Following on from Anne Marie’s comment I’m thinking specifically about what motivated you to start learning about and using e-learning in your teaching, ie developing interactive content, using virtual worlds or using Web 2.0 tools like blogs and wikis with your students.

Many thanks!

Basic controlled research into e-learning

I’ve been scouring the literature recently to see if I can find some evidence of the impact of e-learning and the use of some Web 2.0 tools on student learning outcomes.  I haven’t yet found anything much of note.  A number of the papers I’ve read end up highlighting the need for more research.

Donald Clark had an interesting post today about spaced practice in learning.  However, given my current train of thought it was Donald’s P.S. that particularly caught my attention.  He says:

Speaking to Dr Itiel Dror, he was aghast at the lack of basic knowledge in the psychology of learning in learning professionals. He also suggested some basic controlled research into a traditional lecture versus the same lecture on video (with learner control) and the same lecture in an e-learning format. Seems obvious but it hasn’t been done – or has it?

Has anyone done this?  Is anyone currently doing this?  Can anyone point me to anything that’s been published?