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Educational content must breathe…

Back in the ol’ days when producing content was a specialized competency, educational planners had little choice but to develop content, package it into slides, or a monograph, or a video and then sit back and hope it had the impact that was intended. Certainly in live meetings, or in a series of live meetings, content could be adjusted dynamically over time, but even then it seems that this opportunity was rarely leveraged and more often than not the content being presented in the 8th meeting of a series differed little from that presented in the 1st meeting in the series.

It seems that (historically) the broadly held cultural expectation was that educational content was an end-product of educational planning. Period.

But times have changed – the act of producing content is no longer a specialized competency – creating, refining, and optimizing content CAN BE done with little effort and this COULD significantly change the impact of an activity, an initiative, or an educational program.

I emphasize the words “CAN BE” and “COULD” because it seems that though technology has provided the educational community with the opportunity to breathe new life into their content overtime, the culture of educational planning has not appeared to change.

Over the past few months of extolling the virtues of our learning architecture models I have heard time and time and time again that the ability to create rapid feedback loops where real-time learning action data can be leveraged to update, refine, and optimize content is a game changer. Learners love the idea that the content they are exploring is dynamic. Supporters of medical education are enthralled with the idea that education content can be as relevant 12 months after it was launched as it was on day one. And, educational planners and faculty seem to genuinely understand how this simple innovation may allow them to educate and empower clinicians which much greater flexibility and fidelity.

So the question to be asked is, ‘how can we ensure that the vision for what could be in medical education is not limited by the culture of what has always been?’

At this moment I do not have the definitive answer to this question, but trust that we are spending a lot of time engineering solutions that address this very question.Just Breathe

While it is one thing to acknowledge that your educational content can and must breathe, it is another thing to change the cultural expectation that content is created once. To get from here to there educational planning models must change, expectations must change, and culture must change.

Simply put, for medical education to have the impact that is needed, the community must transform our educational planning process from an inorganic set-it-and-forget-it model to an organic, breathing, dynamic model…a task that despite vast technological innovation will ultimately depend on individual within the community accepting the challenge.

Brian S McGowan, PhD

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Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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