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Time is money

Posted by Alba Ruzafa

This famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin could summarize the soul of the times we currently live in. Time is not infinite and therefore is, I think, the most valuable asset we possess.

If you work in the medical education arena, you know that healthcare professionals are BUSY (yes, with capital letters). Not only do they have to help their many patients, but they also need to keep up to date with the latest developments in their area of expertise. All in addition to going to conferences, participating in advisory boards or research meetings, etc…

How can we make these busy practitioners engage with educational content when their schedules are already so full? It seems that microlearning is the million-dollar answer. This new buzzword and form of education has arisen as an innovative strategy for delivering knowledge in very short periods, which fits perfectly in our rapidly-moving world. Not only it is convenient because of the time factor, but it also helps with knowledge retention and application; these features make it a very efficient way of learning.

Despite these advantages, I cannot help but wonder how is best to incorporate microlearning into Continuing Medical Education.

I find myself increasingly trying to design shorter educational activities to attract, and even more difficult, to keep a demanding audience engaged. But while doing so I keep coming up with the same question: What makes an effective and successful piece of microlearning? The idea of educational activities of less than 10 minutes is great, but how short can we make our modules before we compromise on their quality, or they are considered incomplete?

From an editorial perspective, we face the challenge of analyzing the huge amount of information published on a determined subject, selecting the key topics to address the educational gaps in that area, and trying to condense these into a 15–20 minute activity. One might think that reducing this by 5–10 minutes should not be too complicated, however, even our scientific experts admit that 15 minutes may not be enough time to create a complete educational piece, depending on the complexity of the topic.

Could a potential solution be, in this situation, to create a set of three 5-minute-long activities? Would that be indirectly forcing the users to take all modules if they want to avoid fragmented learning? Besides, how can we measure the outcomes of such short modules? If the content is accredited, usually, the learners will need to complete a minimum of 15 minutes (sometimes 1 hour) to claim 0.25 credits (or 1 credit), so they will be forced to complete the three or more activities to achieve their goal.

So how do we tackle this? Well… I am still figuring it out, but I believe microlearning is the way forward. With practice, and based on learners’ feedback I am sure we will be able to achieve the sweet spot where our audience is highly engaged, the maximum advantage of their time is taken, and they obtain a complete educational piece.