Online Continuing Education - The Results

Our team at FOAMfrat is always attempting to collect discreet data points from the industry in order to improve our education platform. One of best ways we believe to do this is by collecting survey results from social media. Recently we released a survey asking seven questions regarding online continuing education. With the pandemic limiting the traditional "in-person" EMS refresher, our industry has had to adopt and adapt to distant learning.

Our survey includes a sample size of 337 providers from various levels as seen below.

One of the first questions in the survey was whether you had completed your last recertification cycle using an online EMS refresher. We were very surprised to see the results were pretty much split even.

When asked how providers feel about online continuing education, the majority said they found it accommodating and valuable.

Online education for medical professionals has gotten a facelift. The FOAMed spirit has really changed the appearance and format of many EMS presenters. Slides are no longer full of bullet points, presenters reading off slides, and listing all the "objectives" of a talk.... actually, let's talk about the last one. The FOAMfrat team is generally not a huge fan of listing objectives before a talk. I personally feel like it disrupts the story and feels too formal. However, our team found the results to this next question very interesting.

So here's the thing, and I admit this is likely bias. The results show a 50/50 split between "yes" and "it does not matter to me." I believe that there may be a component of expecting things because of the way they have always been done. One of my favorites quotes from Henry Ford is, "If I would have asked the people what they wanted, they would have just said faster horses." One must be cautious when assuming the sample is skewed due to previous experiences, but on the other hand, 37% said they didn't care. I am actually not sure what to do with this information. I believe we have a very narrow window to obtain and maintain our audiences attention.

On the topic of attention span, we know that the modern attention span is short. We expect immediate results, don't want to wait for songs to end before switching, and love the idea of "on-demand." In my opinion, the days of talks lasting 60-90 minutes are over. The 20-30 minute "TED-Talk" style presentation is very appealing. When asked how long providers could keep their mind focused on a speaker, the results were pretty much as expected.

What should you do with this information? Well if you are planning a conference, setting up a series of short talks will likely get better results than a few longer talks. One of the questions that comes up when this is discussed is how to keep track of continuing education. Because our CE's are tracked in hours, someone giving a talk for 20 minutes seems like a logistic nightmare. One way of combating this is by assigning several speakers to one topic, and having each one address a different aspect of that talk. For example, the topic of congestive heart failure could include a talk on CPAP and another talk on high dose nitro. When I was the program manager at the Wisconsin EMS Association, this is exactly how I would set-up the talks.

When Sam and I were recording the F3 (distributive) content for the FOAMfrat library, we were very curious as to whether to not it made a difference to the student if we had our camera on or just did a voice over. I had seen the "floating head" approach before and was not sure if it added much value to the delivery of content. Our results from the poll and experience say that this is actually pretty important.

I find myself watching the Joe Rogan podcast instead of just listening to it. Seeing the reactions and chemistry amongst humans is attractive. We are seeing more podcasts turn into vodcasts. Our team at FOAMfrat realizes this is an engaging way of learning and we hope to accommodate the evidence we found in this survey.

Even though 337 may seem like a small sample size, we feel that the demographics and geography that make up this sample are a good representation of our industry. We do realize that this survey is bias to people who are active on social media and specifically those who follow FOAMfrat. The COVID19 pandemic created some interesting challenges to continuing education and many providers were for the first time ever, in full control of their continuing education. The FOAMfrat library charges $159.99 for a one year subscription. This is neither the highest or lowest priced course within the industry, but we were curious how providers felt about the cost of online EMS education.

The majority voted that continuing education was overpriced. However, when compared to in-person refresher courses, I find that the online option is significantly cheaper. My buddy Tom Bouthillet spearheaded a free online refresher with the help of many friends within the industry. I think this is a great gesture and meets a timely need during the pandemic, but the model is not sustainable long term. The cost of a learning management system and assuring that new and up to date content is replenished on a regular basis takes time. While providers donating their time for free is very generous, no other profession relies on donation based education as a sustainable model.

Our team sincerely appreciates the participation of our industry in helping us gather these results. We plan on releasing several surveys this year and your participation helps us increase the sample size.