Build or Buy? Curricular Design and External Basic Sciences Learning Resources

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In this fully digital age, the best teachers of any subject are available to any medical student, anywhere in the world, at any time through Web resources such as Pathoma,1 SketchyMedical,2 and others. The majority of a foundational sciences education can now be acquired for hundreds of dollars—a tiny fraction of tuition at most medical schools. The proliferation of these tools, now purchased and used by default by most students, raises important questions as to the value proposition of a traditional preclinical basic science curriculum that relies on locally created and delivered content. The future of basic sciences medical education is, therefore, a paradoxical combination of standardization and personalization.
The next sea change in medical education, already under way in some medical schools, is the move from a model that sold information (which is now available at a low cost, anywhere, anytime) to one that provides the personalized support and resources necessary for students to build a career launchpad aimed at their unique professional aspirations.
In today’s age of cheap information, tuition dollars and limited organizational resources should provide access to insight, guidance, and opportunity. Reallocating time, faculty effort, and scarce medical education budgets from a local content model to one that leverages best-in-class electronic tools would allow a school to redirect their energies towards curricular elements not deliverable at a distance, but crucial for creating the type of doctor most aligned with a school’s mission. And institutions, in turn, freed from the content-creation treadmill, could focus not only on curriculum customization and innovation—graduating learners with deeper experience in research, quality improvement, patient safety, leadership development, and beyond—but also on developing the future leaders of medicine.
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