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Combining online learning and the Socratic method to reinvent medical school courses

A piece published yesterday in Inside Stanford Medicine takes a closer look at the efforts of a core group of Stanford professors, education technology specialists and collaborators from the Khan Academy to develop a new online learning initiative to reinvent medical school courses. We also reported on the work on Scope last week.

The first step in the Stanford Medicine Interactive Learning Initiatives (SMILI) is to reverse the traditional teaching method of class time being reserved for lectures and problem-solving exercises being completed outside of school as “homework.” Under the new model, online learning is combined with the Socratic method to ensure that medical students are fully comprehending new information in a meaningful way. The model was first proposed by Charles Prober, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at Stanford, and Chip Heath, PhD, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business an article (subscription required) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The story offers more details on how the initiative may be expanded beyond campus:

Part of Prober's vision is that video instruction could be shared by the country's leading medical schools — they all teach essentially the same material to first- and second-year students. Representatives of those schools are discussing shared curriculum, he said, and they are all reconsidering how they deliver knowledge.

Griff Harsh, MD, a professor of neurosurgery and associate dean of postgraduate medical education, said at a recent SMILI meeting that as many as nine online pilots will be produced this year for practitioners enrolled in continuing medical education. They include units on critical care ultrasound, clinical trials, antibiotics, sepsis, dermatitis and cardiac crisis management.

The benefits of online learning also could extend far beyond the School of Medicine; the videos for Patterson's course on cardiovascular physiology will be watched by students in Rwanda, a project made possible thanks to Patterson's longtime collaboration with medical professionals in that battered country who have, nearly miraculously, established a medical school.

The videos for the cardiovascular physiology unit will be made by the professors with the assistance of Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that since 2006 has been producing free videos about a variety of academic (and medical) topics. Khan Academy is involved with Stanford in other areas as well — for example, problem sets on Stanford's open-source course-hosting platform, Class2Go, use the Khan exercise framework — but it has been particularly active with the School of Medicine.

Previously: Using the “flipped classroom” model to re-imagine medical education, Rethinking the “sage on stage” model in medical education and Stanford professors propose re-imagining medical education with “lecture-less” classes
Photo by Brian Tobin

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