#CMEChat 7/12/11: Exploring the Benefits, Challenges, and Need to Improve Online CME

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As I may have mentioned before, there's a group of CME professionals that e-gather every Wednesday at 11 am ET on Twitter to talk about the art and science of CME. The moderator of the 7/12/11 session, Brian S. McGowan, PhD (aka CMEAdvocate on Twitter), posed several questions, which the group then dug into in bites of 140 characters or less. The full archive of the chat is available, but I thought I'd make it easier to wade through by providing a summary of some of what we talked about (and fellow #CMEChatters, if I misinterpreted anything, please let me know in the comments!).

Brian began by pointing out that the CME community was told back in 2006 that online education was effective. What has changed with online CME since then?

While the CME tweeters said that while more and better interactive formats are available now, too much of online CME is an endurance test, with overly long activities that consist of talking headshots and PowerPoint slides, they said. Too often CME providers spend a lot of time and energy trying to reproduce the live experience online; “Is that really the goal?” asked one person. And while there has been progress with Web 2.0 tools that include the interactivity and peer feedback that is vital to learning, CME providers have been slow to embrace the power of these platforms.

Is the lack of Web 2.0 adoption related to the science of learning (and e-learning), or is it just a matter of wanting to stick with the status quo? Exacerbating the issues, said one tweeter, was a disconnect between IT, Web, and education departments that often may not be on the same page. And, while the technology is there for the taking, not everyone wants to commit the time and costs of implementing it (more on this later).

Covering Daily and Archived Coverage

Daily conference coverage is a staple at many live CME conferences. Reporting what happens is necessary if you want to move the content and knowledge outside of the room, but does anyone really learn using this method?

One problem, one person tweeted, is that the learner is at the mercy of what the writer deemed to be important—this can be the biggest pitfall, another noted, since it limits the spectrum of coverage to the writer’s preferences (note from Sue: Hmm, consider the source when reading this writeup!). And does the writer’s status in that field affect the credibility of their coverage choices? The question is how to balance the simple reporting of the CME and the need for engaged learning and being able to put that learning into the context of a healthcare professional’s practice, something that will likely depend on the education needs of individual learners. One suggestion that was greeted with Twittery enthusiasm (several retweets) was that organizations could set up reporting plans that matched their abstract review and approval plans. This might be more efficient, but would it be more effective, questioned another tweeter.

However, aside from providing credit, how is this daily coverage any better than what gets reported in the evening news, queried a #CMEChatter. Actually, said another, the evening news may be more effective in reaching docs—think about the “physician as consumer,” and patients, who may benefit as soon as their next appointment. Another noted that the evening news and the daily coverage often are coming from the same sources set up by the medical societies.

Whatever the shortcomings of daily reporting, whether by news media or the conference organizers, another said, “some coverage is better than no coverage for those who can’t attend.”

Which brought the group to tweeting about the pros and cons of archiving and repurposing live lectures. If it’s archived in a timely and media-appropriate fashion, it can be a great way to reach more learners, said one #CMEChat participant. It’s also cost effective, extending your reach and giving you more bang for your buck, said another. Repurposed archived activities also can ensure the entire body of knowledge gets disseminated, not just what one writer deemed to be important.

A weakness, of course, is that you end up with the long, talking-head online lecture that the chatters said is a disadvantage of online CME. So you basically can’t win, said one tweeter: “Online coverage gets skewed by buzz and what is reported, repurposed video tells a broader story, but is indigestible?”

But what if Web 2.0 features were enabled for all repurposed content and faculty were encouraged to re-engage? “Nirvana” and “Valhalla” were mentioned in response. “If faculty could re-engage asynchronously using Web 2.0 tools, then all learners could reap the benefits of ‘live’ Q&A” for real interactivity,” said one. That would be the model of medical education in the near future, another tweeted. But they were quickly brought back to earth when another person pointed out that there remains the problem of getting the audience to engage. And then there’s the faculty: “Just one more thing for them to do. ‘I’m going to need a higher honorarium for that,” snarked a tweeter.

Clearing New Channels

Brian finished up by asking what the #CMEChatters would build if they could build their own channel for sharing new medical data.

It would reinforce learning by including e-mail and text notification options to alert learners to new comments, and include ratings, voting, and sharing as well as comments, they said. “I would love to see Web 2.0 be part of every online CME activity and I want Wi-Fi in every live session (plus powerstrips),” said one person. While that sounds great, another person questioned how much time participants would be willing to spend on the Web 2.0 piece, since he can barely get them to complete a short evaluation. The best way to get them involved is to have a colleague show how they’re successfully using social media, someone tweeted. Another said it was up to providers to show learners the benefits and create the top-of-mind desire to engage. Then there’s the stick approach: It also can be a required as a prerequisite to the learning, suggested another.

And, voicing the frustrations of the already overloaded, another person said, “Does the world need a new channel? Isn’t our attention scattered enough already?” While a few agreed with that sentiment, most seemed to want to find ways to overcome the barriers to making their vision become reality. While the costs of re-engineering a Web site might seem prohibitive to a small provider, the costs will go down if you “cut out 40 percent to 50 percent of the fluff" and concentrate efforts on just the things that will enhance learning. “The idea that this all costs more is untenable,” he added. “We are adding in efficiency and stripping away proprietary shiny silver objects.” Another person noted that the new learning management system platforms have Web 2.0 built in already.

Stay tuned for the next #CMEChat on Wednesday at 11 am ET. It really is all that and a piece of pie!

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