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Toby blog

Good education is about design not length

Posted by Toby Borger

Most, if not all, of us have switched off during a presentation and many of you will have switched off by the time you have got to the end of this blog, assuming that you will even get that far! We can sit through an hour long training session and not learn a single thing, yet grasp a concept from a 5-minute podcast or a picture.

The success of an educational activity should therefore be measured on its impact on learners’ knowledge and/or behavior, not on how long it takes to complete. Educational impact is achieved through the design of the activity, not its length.

Medical education is a perfect example of this. The coronavirus pandemic forced content and technology providers to completely rethink educational formats. Face-to-face conferences, where thousands of doctors would travel to the venue (usually in a major European or American city) had to be replaced by platforms delivering the virtual equivalent. The majority of these platforms managed to successfully deliver virtual plenary and break-out sessions, enabling the audience to take part in polls and ask questions of the faculty. What these platforms could not replicate was the chance encounters with colleagues where a challenging patient would be discussed over coffee. It is no exaggeration to say that these brief conversations have prolonged patient lives.

However, accreditation bodies around the world continue to offer continuous medical education (CME) credits (of which doctors in many countries are required to attain an annual minimum to continue practicing) based on how long an activity lasted – and not on what it delivered in terms of increase in knowledge and/or improvement in practice. To put this into perspective, a doctor who registered for a virtual medical conference that lasted 5 days could receive up to 35 credits without having to prove he/she attended any of the sessions. In fact, in a recent virtual conference breakout group that I attended, all the participants admitted that they hadn’t put their out of office on (as they would have done for a face-to-face conference) and tried to fit the most relevant conference sessions around their daily work. One of the participants even related a story where viewers in the middle of a webinar were left staring at an empty office as the presenter had suddenly been called to a medical emergency!

At Springer Healthcare IME we understand that doctors do not always have the time to participate in long (1 hour +) webinars and that effective education can take many forms and lengths. We are increasingly delivering “micro-learning” formats such as podcasts and enriched treatment pathways, and are even exploring a concept called a “Tweetorial” where the Tweet is the educational activity and not just the channel to promote it.

If you have reached the end of what is my first (and possibly last) blog, then thank you. I hope it was worth your time, but more importantly that you learned something.