Trends in medical education in the digital age

This is a presentation I gave when I visited Galway Medical School in March at a session of the Galway Area Medical Education group.  I’ve been meaning to post it up to Slideshare for a while and been prompted to upload it by Tom O’Neill’s tweet earlier today asking if anyone has screenshots or slides showing examples of Twitter in medical education. So here it is. In the session I gave an overview and considered some of the emerging trends in using technology in medical education and approaches to their implementation and rferred to some examples from across the continuum of medical education.

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!

Is RSS in decline or waiting to be discovered?

ReadWriteWeb (RWW) have posted a piece highlighting that one of the interesting technology trends of 2009 has been the growing decline of RSS Readers. Richard MacManus, who wrote the post, mentions that whilst he maintains a Google Reader account, he doesn’t check it everyday but does check Twitter for news information multiple times a day.

So is Richard typical?  Do you increasingly turn to the Twitter stream to pick up news and links to interesting blog posts or are you still having a look at the RSS feeds you subscribe too?

Looking at the comments the RWW article has generated it looks like many are still using good old RSS readers, indeed a number say that they came across the piece in their RSS feeds.  I for one am still using an RSS reader, but over the year I’ve changed my reader.  At the start of the year I was reading my RSS feeds in my web browser, I use Flock, which yes is a bit slow to start up in comparison to Firefox and Safari (and no doubt Chrome which I’ve yet to try) but I like the way it allows me to manage my blogs, email, delicious accounts etc.  I also like the way it organises RSS feeds and supports Firefox extensions.  Over the past 12 months I’ve also used Netvibes and Pageflakes to share RSS feeds with others and to show them what RSS feeds are as many of the staff and students I speak to have never heard of RSS feeds and don’t know what they are.  I’ve also used Bloglines, but tried  to resist setting up a Google Reader account, (I think because I see Google as the new Microsoft).  Then around about 6 months ago I heard about Feedly.  I liked the look of Feedly as it gives you more of a magazine feel to reading RSS feeds. I started using it and now it’s my default RSS reader.  As it runs off Google Reader I had to give in to my resistance and create an account, but I manage all my feeds in Feedly rather than the clunky Google interface.  At the moment Feedly runs on Firefox and it also now supports Chrome.  There have been requests for it to run on Safari and for an iPhone app and you get the sense that if enough of the user community shout for this the Feedly guys will support these developments .

Feedly cover page

I dip in out of Feedly during the day, I can post articles to Twitter, bookmark them to Delicous or Diigo, post to Posterous, Tumblr, Evernote etc and share articles, as you can with Google Reader.

So do I think RSS in in decline? It isn’t for me.  I do pick things up from Twitter and start subscribing to some blogs websites because of the links I pick up for my Twitter network, but my RSS feeds are my magazine shelf which I dip in and out of.  Also with the the vast majority of individuals who use the web still not knowing what RSS is, whilst it maybe in decline for some there’s may be also a sense in which it’s still waiting to be discovered.