Five tips for online education to thrive, not just survive

Planning education in the context of COVID-19 poses challenges for all medical education providers

The environment we are operating in has changed considerably and will continue to do so due to the global health crisis, with the medical field arguably the most affected. Healthcare providers (HCPs) face an increasingly complex array of pressures, one of which is to maintain their expertise and keep abreast of the latest science and best practices in supporting their patients.

" So how can we deliver effective, engaging education to healthcare providers in a world where we are all just a talking head in a box? "

The COVID-19 pandemic is an influential factor in the shift toward online education formats, and in this time of transition, agility and adaptation must be our guides. Online education offers valuable tools to deliver medical education to healthcare providers around the world, but we must appreciate that everyone has a different learning style and that those learners who prefer hands-on, experiential formats can find education delivered via Zoom harder to engage with.

So how can we deliver effective, engaging education to healthcare providers in a world where we are all just a talking head in a box? Here are some suggestions:

  • Designing education with a diverse mix of formats, such as doing mixed reality or attractive videos, will accommodate a spectrum of styles helping more learners to get the most out of the given content programme
  • Embedding interactivity throughout each module, such as polls, quizzes, and Q&A discussions works well to increase engagement
  • Reinforcing learning soon after completion helps HCPs reflect on the new knowledge they’ve gained, consolidating their education
  • Highly skilled moderators can help transform webinars into an engaging, enjoyable, and effective learning experience
  • Incorporating real-world evidence and the patient perspective enriches medical education

For virtual meetings and online medical education alike, we have access to a greater amount of data about the learner experience than is possible to collect with face to face education. This gives us an important opportunity to take a deep dive into the data, enabling us to understand more about the ways in which HCPs access our education. We can use these insights to finetune the continuing medical education (CME) and optimise the learner experience, and to better understand the needs and preferences of individuals as they work through the material. A commitment to innovation, interactivity, quality, and responsiveness to healthcare providers’ needs that draw on the rich array of data we can access, will be the key to our medical education remaining robust through the pandemic and into the future.

The article was originally written for IAPCO, The PCO.

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