Perspectives

Microlearning during the pandemic


 

Future applications and initiatives

Thus far, we have had great success in the reception and use of both podcasts within our institution as an application of microlearning. “The Cure” has been widely listened to by all hospital staff from various services; it has caught the attention of state-wide radio programs, and plans to expand it into the community are being discussed.

As for “Antibiotry” podcast, the concept has been lauded by our medical educators. Given its centralization within our institution, we are able to publish institution-based data as a form of professional and educational feedback to our trainees and staff physicians. This is currently coupled with the development of a provider dashboard, visualizing antibiotic prescriptions and narrowing patterns of practice within our medicine department. We plan to expand “Antibiotry” to other services at the hospital.

For both podcasts, the steps it took to achieve the final product from the microlearning concept were possible through a combination of institutional need and a motivated team. We are fortunate to have highly energetic individuals, making the coordination and planning with our hospitalists, various sub-specialists, and professional development teams straightforward. As the team grows with more individuals interested in the initiatives, keen insight into interests, individual clinical expertise, presentation skills, and technical skills ought to be carefully weighed to sustain our podcasts most efficiently, and perhaps expand them through different social media platforms.

Our objective for sustainability is through the continued outreach to and recruitment of residents and medical students, who can play key roles in the development of future projects related to these educational innovations. Both microlearning podcasts were developed through the initial planning, trial and error, and execution by two resident leaders. Their initiative and motivation to educate our institution through these platforms were highly unique; their pathfinding set the foundation for sustainability and expansion to other services.

Of course, one of the key measures we would like to investigate is whether our microlearning platform translates to improved patient outcomes. Regarding “Antibiotry,” we hope to see a decrease in unnecessary broad-spectrum antibiotic use by drawing attention to clinician practice patterns. Quality and outcome metrics will continue to be developed and measured. In addition to patient care metrics, further investigation of pedagogical metrics will be conducted, especially in the evolving realm of graduate and continuing medical education.

Measuring educational quality is neither a new ethical nor philosophical debate – neither does it carry a definitive answer. Further help from education experts may be needed to assess the quality of the information provided and its impact on our learners.

Conclusion

Medicine is ever-changing – the guidelines and criteria for patient care and pathology that we learned in medical school have likely changed. There is no single “best” method of learning new information in medicine, simply due to the breadth and volume of such information generated on a daily basis. This poses both a challenge for present-day clinicians and trainees, and a stimulus for change in the methods of acquiring, absorbing, and applying new information to clinical decision making and practice.

We have found that podcasting is a well-received medium of information transfer that is convenient for both the learner and the content creator. Through the podcast format, we were able to distill non-engaging pieces of education and information and transform them into short-duration lessons that the learner can listen to at their own convenience. This proved to be especially handy during the chaos of the pandemic, not only for dissemination of information regarding the management of COVID-19, but also for sustaining quality improvement goals within our institution.

Further investigation on patient outcomes and information quality are the planned next steps. In addition, expansion of other microlearning media, such as group SMS texting, YouTube videos, and Twitter, ought to be considered. Though many publications discuss the theory, potential benefits, and predicted pitfalls of microlearning, few assess the real-world application of microlearning to the clinical setting for medical education.

So what did we learn? We should think of microlearning as moments when you turn to your smartphone or tablet in order to discover something, answer a question, or complete a task. These are moments when decisions are made and knowledge is reinforced. The goal is to capture these moments and fill them with essential pieces of information.

We offer these suggestions as a place to start. The microlearning platform allows for the collection of data on the interaction between user and course content. The data collected can be used for continuous quality improvement of the curriculum. Microlearning is a dynamic platform where creative ideas are encouraged and a multi-disciplinary approach is valuable to keeping an audience engaged. In the future, we hope to be able to correlate microlearning courses to provider performance and measurable patient outcomes.

Dr. Mercado is medical director at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, and associate hospital epidemiologist, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, both in Lebanon, N.H., and assistant professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, N.H. Dr. Feng is a Fellow in the Leadership/Preventive Medicine Program in the Department of Internal Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

References

1. Duggan F and Banwell L. Constructing a model of effective information dissemination in a crisis. Information Research. 2004;9(3). Paper 178 [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/9-3/paper178.html].

2. Filipe HP, et al. Microlearning to improve CPD learning objectives. Clin Teach. 2020 Dec;17(6):695-699. doi: 10.1111/tct.13208.

3. Hegerius A, et al. E-Learning in Pharmacovigilance: An Evaluation of Microlearning-Based Modules Developed by Uppsala Monitoring Centre. Drug Saf. 2020 Nov;43(11):1171-1180. doi: 10.1007/s40264-020-00981-w.

4. Orwoll B, et al. Gamification and Microlearning for Engagement With Quality Improvement (GAMEQI): A Bundled Digital Intervention for the Prevention of Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection. Am J Med Qual. Jan/Feb 2018;33(1):21-29. doi: 10.1177/1062860617706542.

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