Mind the Gap: differential use of online education resources between residents and program directors

(The guest post this week is from Eve Purdy, a final year medical student at Queen’s University. She discusses how technology is changing learning processes in the current generation of graduates based on a recent study she conducted.  

 Check out Eve’s excellent blog that documents her experiences in medical school.  

– Jonathan (@sherbino)_


By Eve Purdy (@purdy_eve)

Purdy E, Thoma B, Bednarcyzk J, Migneault D, Sherbino J. The use of free online educational resources by Canadian emergency medicine residents and program directors. 2015 CJEM 17(2):101-106.

One role of educators is to teach appropriate stewardship of educational materials, but there is a new kid in town changing the game, the online education resource (OER). OERs are becoming increasingly prominent in education and generational trends suggest that the current cohort of learners will be drawn to non-traditional, online resources to a greater extent than their teachers. Our recent evaluation of Canadian emergency medicine physicians showed that this trend is in fact a reality in medical education with learners using podcasts, vodcasts, wikis and file sharing sites more frequently than their program directors.

Resident online resources per month


residents vs program directors

More than simple quantitative differences in the usage of OERs, we also found that residents and program directors have distinct priorities when they choose resources- learners seem to more highly prioritize entertainment value while PDs select for well-referenced material. Despite differential use of OERs and conflicting priorities when selecting educational resources, learners still place high value on faculty referral to specific learning resources. 

Taken together, these findings suggest that learners are looking to be shepherded, but the potential shepherds may not be as comfortable with the resources that learners are inherently drawn to. So now what?

Mind the Gap. Weighing the strengths and weaknesses of any learning tool should be the shared responsibility of residents and their teachers. Free OERs are no different than traditional resources in this regard, but our study demonstrates important discrepancies in OER use and the factors that residents and PDs see as important in this decision-making process- discrepancies that must be recognized appreciated and reconciled by both parties. OERs offer unique benefits over traditional resources, including: ease of access, frequent updates, real-time feedback from a worldwide audience, and the opportunity for active learning through content creation and interaction with content producers. The asynchronous learning model, central to OERs, makes them a natural choice for Generation C. Those involved with residency education need to be aware of these benefits and also be prepared find ways to help learners identify the highest quality resources. So the next time you are chatting with a learner about an education resource, take some time to recognize and mind the gap.