Summary: In his latest blog Professor Harden discusses his time at IMEC, the International Medical University, the concept of teaching excellence, a great way to start a medical education programme, and student engagement. Description: Another interesting IMEC
I have just returned from the 13th International Medical Education Conference (IMEC) 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The conference focused on the impact of technology on education and on personalised learning. The three messages from my opening keynote address were:
  • Ignoring the impact of technology on making learning effective and efficient and the changing role of the teacher is not an option.
  • Implementing what is considered as current best practice should not be an enemy of innovation.
  • If you look in the right places you can see today tomorrow’s technologies. The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.
One symposium addressed technology enhanced learning with limited resources. Contributors were Danai Wangsaturaka, Thailand, Indika Karunathilake, Sri Lanka, and Goh Poh Sun, Singapore. “Our resources may be limited but our ideas and creativity will never be” was the concluding comment by Danai. He described interesting applications of teaching and learning in the medical school. Students were most active on the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Medicine e-platform from 22:00 to 01:00. To deal with any technical problems as they arose a member of the technical staff was on duty overnight. Chulalongkorn have an impressive record in medical education and gained an ASPIRE-to-Excellence award for student engagement in the curriculum in their medical school.

A theme of the conference was personalised learning and there was some confusion as to what this constituted. One view expressed was that the concept was not new and students already had very different clinical experiences and learned in very different ways. Some doubt was cast on whether the idea of an adaptive curriculum where the needs of individual students were addressed was feasible. Not unexpectedly, the concept of moving from a time-based model to a competency-based model in the education of health care professionals was regarded with some caution. There are, however, examples where the concept of an adaptive curriculum is being implemented in practice and I look forward to seeing examples presented at a session on adaptive learning at AMEE 2018 in Basel. A special anniversary issue of Medical Teacher edited by Mark Quirk to be published in August will also address adaptive learning. Hopefully this will demonstrate that personalised adaptive learning is not some sort of disguised science fiction but a reality.

International Medical University
The conference was followed by a meeting of the Academic Council of the International Medical University. This is a unique consortium of more than 20 partner schools in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada. The students spend the first two and a half years in Malaysia and then move to one of the partner schools where they graduate with the degree of the school. The consortium of schools is looking at other ways in which they might collaborate. One example is likely to be a MOOC on travel medicine led by Gerard Flaherty from Galway, Ireland.

Teaching Excellence
I was interested to note in the Times Higher Education of 29th March 2018 that THE has introduced a survey of university rankings on a trial basis where more emphasis is placed on teaching excellence. It is hoped that the survey will provide data which in the future will feed into the main university rankings. It assesses opportunities of students to interact with faculty as well as the extent to which the education programme challenges students, enhances their critical thinking, and helps them to see connections between different aspects of the courses and apply their learning to the real world. It also examines whether universities seek suggestions and approval from students and act on them, and whether students would recommend institutions to family and friends. The question is raised as to whether “top” universities provide the best teaching. The question, it is suggested, has long been moot, given the extent to which an institution’s reputation is formed by research performance. The results from the UK’s Teaching Excellence Framework assessment last year, however, suggested that the connection between a high ranking university and a good student experience is certainly not guaranteed. Many of the leading research-based universities do not appear on the list of medical schools who have been awarded an ASPIRE-to-Excellence award in one of the areas assessed.

A great start to a medical education programme
When I visited a few years ago, I was impressed by the initiative introduced at the Hofstra School of Medicine in New York, where students spend the first weeks of their training working as emergency medical technicians. They then get a certification. As described in an article Trusting early learners with critical professional activities by Brenner et al. just published in Medical Teacher, the EMT Education provided a framework for an integrated curriculum and sets the stage for a spiral curriculum. The student experience also enabled students to witness the social determinants of health and participate in interprofessional activities. More schools should follow this example.

Brenner, J., Bird, J., Ginzburg, S.B. et al. 2018. Trusting early learners with critical professional activities. Med Teach. Epub ahead of print. 1-9.

Student engagement
Meghan Markle, a supporter of the movement to combat workplace sexual harassment, while attending the first Royal Foundation Forum with fiancĂ© Prince Harry noted “Women don’t need to find a voice. They have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.” We could replace students for women and it would be equally applicable.