ABSTRACT: A crowdsourcing model for creating preclinical medical education study tools.
During their preclinical course work, medical students must memorize and recall substantial amounts of information. Recent trends in medical education emphasize collaboration through team-based learning. In the technology world, the trend toward collaboration has been characterized by the crowdsourcing movement. In 2011, the authors developed an innovative approach to team-based learning that combined students’ use of flashcards to master large volumes of content with a crowdsourcing model, using a simple informatics system to enable those students to share in the effort of generating concise, high-yield study materials. The authors used Google Drive and developed a simple Java software program that enabled students to simultaneously access and edit sets of questions and answers in the form of flashcards. Through this crowdsourcing model, medical students in the class of 2014 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine created a database of over 16,000 questions that corresponded to the Genes to Society basic science curriculum. An analysis of exam scores revealed that students in the class of 2014 outperformed those in the class of 2013, who did not have access to the flashcard system, and a survey of students demonstrated that users were generally satisfied with the system and found it a valuable study tool. In this article, the authors describe the development and implementation of their crowdsourcing model for creating study materials, emphasize its simplicity and user-friendliness, describe its impact on students’ exam performance, and discuss how students in any educational discipline could implement a similar model of collaborative learning.