Letters to the Editor  |   March 2010
E-learning in Medical Education
Article Information
Medical Education
Letters to the Editor   |   March 2010
E-learning in Medical Education
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, March 2010, Vol. 110, 193-194. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, March 2010, Vol. 110, 193-194. doi:
To the Editor:  
The schedules and demands of medical educators and medical students are escalating. Despite having increased patient care responsibilities, medical educators are expected to teach more and more. As a result, many teaching physicians are asking, “How can we continue to practice medicine and still meet the needs of our students?” 
Traditional medical education in the United States was influenced by those such as Sir William Osler and Alexander Flexner.1 For example, once the “Flexner Report”2 was published in the 1900s, medical education was forever changed to apply national standards in admissions, teaching, and assessments, among other criteria. Since then, traditional teaching methods, such as lectures and the Socratic Method,3 have been used to deliver medical education to thousands of medical students. 
However, the delivery of medical education is evolving. New styles of teaching, such as problem-based learning, are being used around the world and at all levels of medical education.4 Students are using blogs, cellular telephones, e-mails, personal digital assistants, twitter, and Wikis to communicate instantly and efficiently with peers and professors. Medical students also offer each other advice on student Web sites such as As medical educators, how can we harness this new technology to stay in tune with students? How can we use the technology to our benefit? 
Every month, new sets of osteopathic medical students begin their rotations with us. In addition, when we hire new advanced practitioners (eg, physician assistants), we find ourselves repeating the same information with every group. In our experience, electronic media helped us harness technology to deliver education in a new and exciting way. 
Learning management systems—also referred to as course management systems and virtual learning environments—such as Moodle (Moodle Trust; and Blackboard (Blackboard Inc; allow educators to deliver the same educational content electronically instead of through traditional methods. These systems save work, energy, and valuable time that can be used for patients instead. 
Learning modules comprised of Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentations (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington), videos, podcasts, audio, and other media are just some examples of the content that can be delivered as stand-alone modules or incorporated into a learning management system. Students can use PowerPoint presentations, reading assignments, or asynchronous (ie, self-directed) courses to review various topics at their own pace and time. Such assignments can be completed before starting a rotation or in conjunction with the rotation. Educators can also generate assignments timed for when the material is covered. 
At our institution, we use a learning management system to deliver PowerPoint presentations and other digital media and to administer pre- and posttests to students. Our system tracks grades and generate reports, which are emailed to instructors the same day that the students take the test. We are able to track which modules they have done and how long they took to review the modules. In our experience, learning management systems have been very successful with students, residents, and advanced practitioners. 
Electronic modes of education will become more widely used with time, perhaps becoming a standard way of educating medical students and other healthcare providers in the future. As a result, medical educators need to become familiar with the various ways education and other everyday practices may be delivered electronically. It is important for medical educators to embrace technology as a valuable resource at our disposal to positively impact students and residents. 
Whatever the way that you choose to use electronic media, learning can be enjoyable and efficient if a system that works is implemented. We encourage all medical educators to become familiar with newer ways of teaching using electronic media. 
 Editor's Note: On page 135, Don N. Peska, DO, and Kadiriye O. Lewis, EdD, analyze osteopathic medical students' participation in and satisfaction with asynchronous technology during clinical clerkships.
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