The traditional training programs will be increasingly intended as the early stages of a learning process designed to last over time under the direct responsibility of the individual. This is true particularly in cases where professional knowledge is prone to rapid obsolescence. Such is the case of the medical profession where, besides an initial university education and professional development based on direct experience, there is the need for a process of continuous education on scientific research results and best professional practice carried out by colleagues (Manning & DeBakey, 2001; Wyatt, 2000). It is precisely due to this requirement that many educational institutions and agencies in Italy have set up specific continuing medical education (CME) programs.
In January 2002 the national project of CME was set up in Italy. Extended to all professionals in the health care sector (not only doctors then), the project is inspired by the principle of training intended as a duty-right of every professional to enhance their knowledge, skills and competencies, and tailoring them to technological and scientific progress. Therefore, the value of training, bound by ethical codes, becomes a prerequisite to maintain professional practice.
The practical consequence of CME being mandatory and extending to all professional categories is that every health care worker must accrue at least 30 CME credits per year.
The credit is recognised as both the quality of the training activity and the time dedicated to it on the grounds of the specific professionalism. By way of example, for each doctor, one training day entirely given over to CME—according to the highest quality standards recognised by the CME National Commission—corresponds to about 8-10 credits. This implies that, to reach the required 30 credits, each medical doctor must commit the equivalent of about four working days per year.
From an organizational and operational perspective, for the LHUs, it would therefore be desirable that, besides the time spent for the “live” training activity, as little time as possible should be added for “logistics” relating to participation. Hence the training activity should:
Be primarily based on training offers accessible on the premises, thereby minimising as much as possible any travelling from the workplace;
Be planned so as not to take up an entire working day but divided into training segments (or modules) each lasting one or two hours.
For this reason, since 2002 the national programme of CME has included, on experimental basis, Distance Education (DE) among the various ways of providing health care workers with training courses. Almost from the outset, interest has been oriented towards DE based on the educational use of ICT (Ruiz, Mintzer, & Leipzig, 2006).Top
The aims of the research has been to draw up a picture in Italy on the ways of using TEL in accredited educational activities for CME, highlighting both the main approaches adopted and the critical issues related to their introduction.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Collaborative Learning: A learning process based on both the individual study and the strong interaction among all the players in the process (trainees, tutors, experts), organized into actual networked learning groups.
Informal Learning: Refers to those processes that see the individuals meet their cognitive/professional needs independently, even via “networked” interaction within professional communities of practice aimed at enhancing the sharing of knowledge and best practices.
TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning): Technology Enhanced Learning is referred to the use of ICT to maximize learning within an environment of sound course design that can offer students the options of time, place, and pace and emphasizes different learning styles.
Individual Learning: A learning process based on the autonomous study of learning materials structured, tailored and developed explicitly to be used for self-study.
CME (Continuing Medical Education): CME consists of educational activities that serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession. CME represents that body of knowledge and skills generally recognized and accepted by the profession as within the basic medical sciences, the discipline of clinical medicine, and the provision of health care to the public.
Formal Training: Refers to approaches based on a precise training programme, with a start and an end, a direction managed by the training provider and a scaffolding for the trainees made up of tutors, teaching materials, the presence of experts/specialists, and so forth.
Assisted Learning: A learning process based on both the individual study of educational materials and the guidance on the subject-matter by the tutor/trainer, who sometimes runs events such as networked workshops/seminars on course themes.
Blended Solution: Consists of an integration of classroom and distance learning activities, where individuals at a distance are supervised by using one (or more) online approaches (individual learning, assisted learning, collaborative learning).