It is my guess that the teaching materials and tools prepared by the faculty of some research universities are seldom or minimally recognized for their instructional value and quality and that the faculty that produce them are even less often credited or rewarded for the effort and time spent producing them. That, however, may be changing for faculty working in the field of medical education.
In a seminar given in April of 2006 at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy and captured by the school on video, Robby Reynolds spoke about the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) initiative that is intended to elevate the standing of outstanding teaching materials in the promotions process.* The website, called MedEdPORTAL, publishes peer-reviewed teaching materials for world-wide distribution. In the video, Reynolds, explains that the materials are accepted for publication only after being subjected to a review process that is similar to the one used by Academic Medicine in the publication of journal articles. Thus, instructors are afforded the opportunity to receive publication credit for their endeavors, and according to MedEdPORTAL, the publication of the materials by the website “should be considered a compelling scholarly contribution suitable to support promotion and tenure decisions.”
Reynolds continues by saying that MedEdPORTAL will consider any topic dealing with medical education, and that there are no restrictions on the form of the material submitted. For example, case studies, animated artwork, atlases and PowerPoint presentations are published on the website. He explains that the materials need not be web-based and that the site has not as of yet matured into a repository for the materials. As it is currently constituted, the web-based resources are linked to the servers that host them while the authors of the non web-based materials, e.g., paper cases and CD-ROMs must provide the materials to interested parties at no charge (except perhaps for duplication and shipping costs) upon request.
More information on how to publish teaching materials through MedEdPORTAL can be obtained by visiting the website or linking to the streaming online video seminar. **
Google Scholar and Wikipedia, which are also reviewed in this issue of The Medical Educator’s Resource Guide (MERG), remind us that users of the Internet are looking for speed and convenience when using websites as sources of educational information, and that they want to know that the information is reasonably complete and accurate. This is the reason the MERG is so useful. In each instance, the sites have been tested in the classroom or office, and have satisfied the needs of faculty and students that use them in their work and studies. If you have experience with a website that offers similar benefits to teachers and students working in the medical sciences please consider sharing your experience with us. You can do so by contacting us by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Google Scholar. Google, Inc.
The team of search-engine gurus at Google(r) has devised a search engine for those interested in finding topics or authors published in scholarly journals. Google Scholar is an astonishingly fast engine capable of searching a word, phrase or name. The most important information concerning the article (title, authors, source, and year) is generated instantly along with several other features which allow the user to quickly obtain the full text or follow its citations to other articles that may be of interest. The importance and position in the list of hits is determined by an articles’ citation rate. The key word is returned in bold font (if present in the title) with a brief excerpt from the text. The user can utilize one of many links, some of which include links to the “full text”, “citations”, “related articles” or “web search” to travel wherever he or she pleases. Perhaps the best feature of Google Scholar is its ability to return not only the full text article, but to return a “grouping” of citations that allows the user to access the same article through many different vectors if the article has been published by more than one source (online journals, online magazines, websites). This feature gives the student, professor, or researcher the ability to obtain the article through their University’s library of digital journals and holdings. (Reviewed by James Marusich, B.S., University at Buffalo)
MedEdPORTAL. Association of American Medical Colleges.
This website is an arm of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The goal of this site is to make instructional materials dealing with any relevant subject available to the medical education community. Given the potential size of the site, users are given four ways to perform a search of the database. The simplest method involves searching with keyword, hot topic, or by discipline. A longer form that asks for more detailed input is used to narrow the outcome. A summary of the results is neatly displayed and organized and the materials can be accessed through links to the identified materials or obtained by contacting the copyright owner. The newness of the site means the coverage of a given subject is likely to be less than ideal. The extensiveness of the coverage can be determined by surveying the number of items attributed to each of the disciplines. The number of items is sure to grow as educators become aware of the service. The site is free, though users must register prior to using it. (Reviewed by John R. Cotter, Ph.D., University at Buffalo.)
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Wikipedia makes finding general information on basic science topics and medicine effortless. Searching the site by using a keyword results in a direct hit or yields a list of potentially relevant articles. The articles are well organized and may be illustrated. The content, which is written and edited by users, is overseen by a group of “trusted users”. The methodology has sparked a debate regarding the wisdom of using the website. The issue is acknowledged by the website in articles dealing with the reliability and criticism of the website’s content. The ease with which information is obtained while carrying out other tasks on a computer makes the site an attractive alternative to broader searches of the Web. Unfamiliar terms are quickly defined, set within the context of a related subject and linked to pertinent articles. The scale of the site and the organization of information make the site perfect for conducting fast searches and initiating research. It is, as the encyclopedia puts it, “a good starting point for research” but the “articles will, by their nature, vary in standard and maturity.” (Reviewed by Zehra Aftab, B.S., University at Buffalo.)
* Robby Reynolds is Co-Director of MedEdPORTAL. He has given the MERG permission to use his name and summarize the contents of his seminar.
* * The seminar “MedEdPORTAL: Access and Submission Process” was given by Robby Reynolds on April 13, 2006 and accessed on April 27, 2007. A streaming video of his talk shall be found on the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy Faculty Development website at http://www.neoucom.edu/audience/faculty/ProfDev/development/TeachingTalks.html.