Summary: The WHO Expert Group Meeting, AMEE 2013 and the media and MOOCs feature in Harden’s Blog this fortnight. Description: I took part last week in a WHO Expert Group Meeting in the regional offices in Copenhagen. WHO has now moved to a new larger United Nations headquarters building in the city. After a security gatehouse check, I had to walk between two buildings across a dull 80-yard concrete yard with no sign of life apart from two concrete containers with dead bamboo. After another security check, I entered the building where again the walls and floor are hard and grey. Apart from one odd staircase there are no architectural features, plants, water, artwork, or soft furnishings. It has been demonstrated that such a hard sterile environment is not conducive to creative work, which is what the Expert Group was there to discuss. WHO has a major initiative – Health 2020 which embraces the need for a transformative approach to education. Galina Perfilieva in the WHO Regional Office is looking with the expert group at how Europe can make a contribution.

The BMJ published this week the NICE Guidelines relating to the diagnosis and management of varicose veins. In introducing the recommendations, the guidelines highlight that they are based on systematic reviews of best available evidence and that when minimal evidence is available the recommendations are based on the experience of experts and their opinion of what constitutes best practice. In assisting teachers coming to appropriate decisions with regard to their education practice, I think we also need to combine evidence and best opinion. Perhaps this is something that the BEME Collaboration should consider further.

I am looking forward to meeting Kati Hakkarainen at AMEE 2013 in Prague to hear further from her about her staff development programme at Tampere, Finland. Teacher participation in MedEdWorld webinars is an obligatory part of the medical education staff development programme.

Life has been hectic in the AMEE office making the final preparations for AMEE 2013 in Prague. To date we have more than 3,100 participants registered and I think we have a particularly exciting programme. In addition to looking to the future and the medical school of the future and the theme of evidence-informed teaching, we have some interesting and thought-provoking papers relating to curriculum planning, teaching and learning methods, approaches to assessment, selection of students, and educational management. We are trying a new format with the first plenary on Sunday evening prior to the reception. During that plenary we will be presenting the ASPIRE Award of Excellence to schools in the categories of assessment, social accountability, and student engagement. We have developed further the interactive ePoster sessions. These are not simply PDFs of a poster projected onto a screen (a common format for ePosters at meetings), but allow for true interaction with the poster and the opportunity to explore more aspects of an ePoster in depth. We are making the conference available online to those unable to be with us in Prague. Online participants will be able to interact in the question and discussion sessions.

Disability in students is very much on the agenda today and the subject of discussion and controversy. I sat in a discussion recently as to the extent to which an OSCE should be organised to take into account a student’s disability. For example, should a student be allowed, if required, longer time to carry out a procedure or to move between stations.

Douglas C. Engelbart a computer visionary who invented the mouse was featured in an article in the New York Times (July 4, 2013). He passed away at 88 after a remarkable life of engineering and invention. Apparently, however, he did not make money out of his mouse invention because by the time it became popular its patent had run out — an invention ahead of its time.

As I pointed out in previous blogs there has been no shortage of media coverage of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). There has certainly been much hype, but also some questioning of the pedagogical value and business sense of these online courses. Writing in Harvard Business Review Blog (July 4, 2013), Nurmohamed, Gillani, and Lenox highlight that it is time that we stop trying to fit MOOCs into old educational moulds and suggests we should how we can harness their powers in new and exciting ways. They describe the use of MOOCS as a platform for real-world problem solving. In March 2013, over 90,000 learners from 143 countries enrolled in Foundations of Business Strategy a MOOC offered through Coursera by the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. In the course’s final project, participants had to solve real business problems with a wide range of businesses being able to take advantage of the global student body’s insights and creativity.

The third run of the ESME Online and ESME Online Leadership courses was completed in June. I am impressed by the number who have satisfactorily participated and then completed the assignments to the level required for the AMEE-ESME Certificate in Medical Education. The ESME Online Course ran from April to June and had a total of 127 participants with 108 successfully receiving the certificate. There was a small number that did not complete the course with the primary reason being given as a change in personal circumstances.

One great piece of news this week… we have just heard that the AMEE 2012 Conference that was held in Lyon, France has been shortlisted for a C&IT Award for the Best Global Congress in 2012. The other three shortlisted are One Young World; Cisco Live 2013; and the ESPGHAN 46th Annual Meeting. The winner will be announced at a dinner in London on September 27, 2013.