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Keywords:

  • quality;
  • online learning;
  • consensus method;
  • education;
  • medical;
  • continuing

Abstract

Introduction

The rapid increase in the use of the Internet for continuing education by physicians suggests the need to define quality criteria for accredited online modules.

Methods

Continuing medical education (CME) directors from Canadian medical schools and academic researchers participated in a consensus process, Modified Nominal Group Technique, to develop agreement on the most important quality criteria to guide module development. Rankings were compared to responses to a survey of a subset of Canadian Medical Association (CMA) members.

Results

A list of 17 items was developed, of which 10 were deemed by experts to be important and 7 were considered secondary. A quality module would: be needs-based; presented in a clinical format; utilize evidence-based information; permit interaction with content and experts; facilitate and attempt to document practice change; be accessible for later review; and include a robust course evaluation. There was less agreement among CMA members on criteria ranking, with consensus on ranking reached on only 12 of 17 items. In contrast to experts, members agreed that the need to assess performance change as a result of an educational experience was not important.

Discussion

This project identified 10 quality criteria for accredited online CME modules that representatives of Canadian organizations involved in continuing education believe should be taken into account when developing learning products. The lack of practitioner support for documentation of change in clinical behavior may suggest that they favor traditional attendance- or completion-based CME; this finding requires further research.