European online postgraduate educational programme in neonatology—the way forward?
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- Hall, M.A., Cuttini, M., Flemmer, A.W. et al. Eur J Pediatr (2009) 168: 449. doi:10.1007/s00431-008-0770-6
The provision of specialist postgraduate training is increasingly challenging for the acute medical specialties. There are often small numbers of trainees and tutors in any one centre, and service commitments may limit attendance at educational activities. Online learning can provide high-quality education to trainees from large geographical areas. We report the outcomes of an experimental educational project which provided an online postgraduate programme in neonatology. Ninety trainees from 14 countries, primarily European, participated. Six educational modules in neonatal topics were delivered over a 1-year period, within a “Virtual Learning Environment”. Trainees were divided into multi-national groups; two online tutors supported each group. Analysis of online activity demonstrated that active participation was high initially (100%) but gradually declined to 46% in the final module; tutor participation followed a similar pattern. Eighty-six trainees were contactable at the end of the programme, and 67 (78%) completed an evaluation questionnaire. Of these, 92% reported that participation had “added value” to their training, attributable to the high-quality curriculum, the educational resources, collaborative networking and the sharing of best practice. Eleven (79%) tutors completed the questionnaire, with all reporting that participation was of educational value. The main limiting factor for trainees and tutors was insufficient time. This project confirms that multi-national online education in neonatology is feasible and transferable, but for this approach to be viable formal accreditation and protected time for both trainees and tutors are required.