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Crowdsourcing Medical Education

Week 3 update for eLearning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age.

Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing

the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially an online community, rather than from employees or suppliers. It was coined in 2005 as a portmanteau of crowd and outsourcing.

In this week’s video, it was said that the notion of crowdsourcing means that

A crowd is as good as the expert.

Living in the Philippines, I have found Twitter lets me access a more global crowd. I can easily tweet a question and get an answer from anyone around the world. Dr. Bertalan Mesko suggests doing exactly that in his TedX talk.


One of the statements that struck me in this week’s video is the utopian view of crowdsourcing, in that

the feedback process will generate enough data to make testing at the end superfluous.

I guess that depends whether we need testing really. There are other ways to evaluate learning outcomes other than testing.

Let me share two examples of crowdsourcing in medical education using Twitter.

The first example is The Medical Education in Cases (MEdIC) from the Academic Life in Emergency Medicine website. A publication on this can be viewed here –

Chan T, Thoma B, Lin M. Creating, Curating and Sharing Online Faculty Development Resources: The Medical Education in Cases Series Experience. Academic Medicine 2015;90(6):785-789.

Each month, a complex, realistic scenario featuring a nonclinical medical education dilemma is published with accompanying discussion questions. A weeklong discussion is moderated on Twitter and the Web site. This discussion is curated to create a community commentary, which is published alongside presolicited expert responses. Case resources are available for download.

You can take a look at MEdIC here.

The second example is a Twitter journal club in urology. The publication can be accessed here –

Thangasamy I, Leveridge M, Davies B, Finelli A, Stork B, Woo H. International Urology Journal Club via Twitter: 12-month Experience. European Urology 2014;66(1): 112-117.

#urojc is an asynchronous 48-h monthly journal club moderated by the Twitter account @iurojc. The open invitation discussions focused on papers typically published within the previous 2–4 wk. Data were obtained via third-party Twitter analysis services.

This Twitter journal club was global with 19 countries and 6 continents represented in their 1-year analysis of data.

I became interested in the use of Twitter as a personal learning network when I experienced joining tweet chats. People often ask me how anyone can carry on a proper conversation with just 140 characters. What I find is that the character limitation forces one to distill the essence of what you want to say. This makes the conversation sharper in my opinion. Of course that takes practice and there are many examples of unfortunate incidents where tweets have been misunderstood. But that is precisely the strength of crowdsourcing. On Twitter, feedback is nearly instantaneous.

Continuing medical education is vital for doctors. The profession expects lifelong learning. There are traditional ways of doing this such as attending conferences or even completing online courses. What makes the two examples exciting for me is that it really is more fun to learn with a crowd and it doesn’t require a significant time commitment. Most tweet chats run for only an hour. The Twitter conversation can even be asynchronous so I can just log on, tweet my opinion and run.

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