How would Steve Jobs reengineer medical school?
The following is a guest blog by Dr. Sanjay Sharma, Professor, Ophthalmology and Epidemiology, Queen’s School of Medicine.
A few years ago, I was stopped cold in my tracks by the response delivered to my question posed to our second year medical students: “What disease needs to be ruled out in an elderly woman who presents with sudden visual loss and jaw claudication?” A cat’s meow, emitted from a student computer, was apparently the answer – instead of the “giant cell arteritis” that I sought. It was at that precise point in time that I realized that many students used precious class time to contribute to “Ouch Charlie’s” YouTube-financed college fund, reconnect with long-lost kindergarten classmates on FB and hammer out 140 character observations to their legions of eagerly-anticipating followers.
While driving home, I remember thinking, “what is wrong with today’s Snapchatting, Instagram-posting, GOT-loving students? Don’t they know that how hard we work on our lectures?” As these thoughts were zipping through my brain, I glanced down at my iPhone and was, once again stunned by its elegant design and simplicity.
In my driveway, I thought how Steve Jobs, might have interpreted the day’s event. How would he re-engineer our current system founded on the 1-hour didactic lecture to meet the expectations of today’s digital generation?
Once home, I was stopped in my tracks for a second time in the day, as I saw a series of wet, blue footprints that had been freshly applied to our white kitchen floor. Following them, I found our, then 10-year old son, Evan, delicately balanced on the top of his stepladder, applying another layer of vibrant blue acrylic paint to the top of his 72-inch canvas. As I watched him expertly apply layer after layer, I asked him where he learned how to do this (I certainly hadn’t taught him), to which he simply responded, “YouTube.”
And with that response, the reality of modern education became clear. It was no longer about Cecil’s and Harrison’s, or thoughts conveyed on Gates’s default blue powerpoint slides. And it certainly was not about the fact that we put five hours into developing a great lecture a decade ago. Quite simply, it is about what they want, how they are wired and how they learn.
That night, I designed the blueprint for medskl.com – an open-access medical education site. I considered how it would look, what it would do, and how it would serve the needs and wants of a new generation of medical students.
Now some 3 years later, thanks to the efforts of a small team of dedicated editors, animators, videographers and coders to support 180+ leading global faculty – we have just formally launchedmedskl.com.
What exactly is medskl.com? It is a FOAMed (free open access medical education) platform that will provide digital lessons to the next generation of physicians. Our content library, once completed, will consist of 200 modules, roughly paralleling the MCC objectives. Each module is taught by an award-winning medical professor from a leading medical school. Here Queen’s professors teach side-by-side with those from Harvard, Hopkins and Stanford to an audience of global students, 24/7.
And to appeal to visual, text-preferred and auditory learners, alike, medskl.com’s lessons are delivered in 2-minute white board animations, written summaries, and Ted Talk-length lectures. Eighty-five modules are now live and all 200 will be complete by the end of the year.
We are thrilled with the initial response to medskl.com. Most Canadian and many US medical schools have expressed interest in incorporating our lessons to support their flipped classroom strategy which sees students consuming content outside of the classroom, allowing more value-added interaction to be delivered in traditional class time. In the short 6 weeks since launch, users from over 50 Universities have logged on to start consuming our lessons to augment their medical education.
As we anticipate the continued rapid uptake of medskl.com, we also look back and thank all the forward-thinking advisors and content providers who took our early calls, gave us real and crucial feedback, and who above all provided fuel to nurture the idea. Our hope is that medskl.com will one day have significant impact on medical education – globally. I hope that Steve Jobs would have approved.