I watched TRON over the weekend (yes, both the original and re-boot). If you’re familiar with the story, TRON was born in technology and “fights for the User.” I feel that the community of FOAM is taking on the role of TRON, and is fighting for the User/consumer/student of medical education. Often times, we are quite literally fighting (albeit minus a light cycle).
It’s pretty easy now to get a colleague in the emergency department (pharmacist, nurse, PA, resident, physician, CCT, anything else) to check out a blog, listen to a podcast… by into online education. Getting anyone outside that area, particularly on-campus at the brick and mortar school, is a different story. I’m sure by now, others have encountered the same road blocks to even having a conversation about providing some sort of online content in the curriculum- let alone getting scholarly credit for creating content. It’s embarrassing, quite frankly. How has higher education fallen is so far behind that we’re letting fly-by-night pop up institutions become leaders in innovation, teaching, and learning?
Fortunately, Rutgers is coming around. Fresh from the Rutgers Online and Hybrid Learning Conference, I feel that the tide of technology in higher education is shifting.  In fact, an annual report from Inside Higher Ed (never heard of it before) is demonstrating this.  This annual survey has shown that year after year, the attitudes of faculty members at higher education institutions are with respect towards online education. While still only 26% of the surveyed 2,799 faculty members at higher education institutions across the country felt online courses can produce results equal to in-person courses, if you’re familiar with The Law Of Diffusion Of Innovation, we’ve crossed the chasm.  The innovators (first 2.5% of the population) have convinced the early adopters (13.5% of the population), which have now influenced the early majority (34% of the population) to buy into online education.
Faculties from all over the University, as well as neighboring institutions, are waking up and realizing that the paradigm has already shifted: open access is soooooo last year – it’s now about increasing your reach and improving the experience.  This refreshing perspective from outside the health-sciences faculties that I often forget to take advantage of, can help solve numerous obstacles to online ed that have been discussed all over #FOAMed.  For instance; while eating lunch with a Geography professor, I realized they have the same issues as pharmacy faculty in making sure students are engaged in the lesson/lecture/assignment.  In other words, while the content might be different, but the challenges and potential innovations in the delivery, assessment, mentorship, etc., are the same.  Why not ask how Colleges of Social Work are overcoming obstacles in providing experiential education (mandatory for their program) for degree programs that are 100% online? They have answers that can help you save years of trial and error. Again, the content may be different, but the method of delivery shares many similarities to pharmaceutical education.
Now, throw the new WHO report on eLearning for undergraduatehealth professional education. Granted, this report may not be directed at the education of health professionals in the developed world, as healthcare professionals in the developed world, we have a responsibility to create the content that will help people with limited access can receive education sufficient to provide pharmaceutical care to their community – wherever it may be. ATTENTION PHARMACISTS: if you really think pharmacists should have a bigger role in primary care/ambulatory care – prove it by providing pharmaceutical education to people in say, Hati, Guyana, West Africa, where they can reclaim the role pharmacists(apothecaries/chemists) once provided as the central figure of medicine in a community (I truly think it can be done).
The early majority is listening, they’re buying in: let’s keep it moving.