Today I attended a session entitled “Does Curriculum Matter?” Unfortunately, the panel was asked the wrong question – as there were too much agreement. A better question would have been “how do we effectively create/manage curriculum?” or “how do we create living curriculum?”
As an eLearning developer, I have been involved in several projects to create curriculum for medical education. In many cases, funding is provided to develop some form of eLearning (usually a self-paced eLearning module). However, these modules are being created without any plans to maintain or sustain them. The scope of the project is usually goes like this: (1) determine the need, (2) figure out the content, (3) build the module, (4) evaluate the effectiveness. However, this does not account for changes to knowledge. As time passes, we learn new things that make the content obsolete, or worse, just plain wrong. We have no plans (or funding) to update the curriculum, and in many cases, we don’t even have processes in place to remove it.
One of the comments that came out of todays session was that it is difficult to remove curriculum. We constantly add to it, but we don’t remove anything. We are left with a collection of excellent resources, but also a large number of obsolete or wrong resources. As the learner, there is no way to know that the curriculum, which was created by a credible organization, is wrong. Our curriculum isn’t living curriculum, it does not change or adapt to our changing understanding of the world, rather in too many cases it is dead the minute it is produced.
To solve this problem, we need to start thinking about creating living curriculum. We have the technology, however, we need to start thinking beyond just creating the curriculum to also including maintaining it. Funding bodies need to start asking the bigger questions about longer term impact of designed curriculum. We need to start thinking about processes that allow us to continuously update curriculum to ensure that it is current, and curriculum that is no longer valid needs to be removed. We need to stop spending money on one-time projects that don’t have sustainability plans (as a consultant that gets paid to develop these one-time projects, I could be said to be shooting myself in the foot with this post).
One example that I’ve seen where this living curriculum example occurs is with the iPad app called “Respirology Handbook” (available for free in the App Store). This eBook has been created by the folks at the Ottawa Hospital, and is intended to replace the “On Call” book used by Respirology residents. The content of the eBook is constantly being updated by Respirology Fellows as part of their Fellowship. What is particularly interesting about this is not so much the app itself, but the process that has been put in place to ensure that it is alway current. It is living curriculum.
So, the question we should be asking ourselves isn’t “does curriculum matter”, rather it should be “how do we create living curriculum?”