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How To Create The Best Medical Education And Training Courses Online

How To Create The Best Medical Education and Training Courses Online

The expansion of online education has given rise to an increased population of health care professionals that seek out and participate in CME courses available on medical training software (Beaumont, 2017).  Health care professionals have different state requirements to earn a defined number of CME credits annually, biennially, or triennially to maintain licenses (Beaumont, 2017).  What better way to earn these credits than via a medical training software?  Busy schedules make it difficult to attend in-person CME trainings.  By accessing a medical training software, health care professionals can earn necessary CME credits on their own time via portable devices with a WIFI connection.

Online CME courses are not only convenient, but they also have several other benefits.  Casebeer et al. (2010) conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of online CME courses using a sample of 17,142 U.S. physicians.  Findings led researchers to conclude that physicians who participated in online CME programs were 48% more likely to make evidence-based clinical decisions than those that did not participate (Casebeer et al., 2010).  Recent studies by Curran, Lockyer, Sargeant, and Fleet also report on the positive impact of CME courses, revealing that online CME programs on a medical training software increase physician knowledge and confidence levels (as cited in Casebeer et al., 2010, p. 13).

If you represent an organization that offers CME courses and you are looking to redesign your course offerings for an online environment, consider the following guide on how to move your CME courses to an online medical training software.  The below guide is informed by a process undertaken by the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership within the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Follow Strict Guidelines when Redesigning CME Programs with Collaborators to Ensure Consistent Online Structure Across CME Courses

The Process

  1. Program directors should evaluate student learning outcomes when transitioning CME programs from semester-long, 15-week programs to online, intensive, 7-week programs (McDonald et al., 2017).
  • Evaluating student outcomes involves program directors doing the following:
    • Comparing existing outcomes of current programs to external resources that aim to teach the same program competencies
    • Identifying gaps and redundancies in existing curricula
    • Developing adjustments to programming to address found gaps and redundancies.
  • Program directors without significant understanding of the latest knowledge requirements for the CME course should evaluate programs with a team of subject matter experts. These subject matter experts should be either teachers or an external advisory board with a strong grasp of the most optimal and current practice guidelines regarding that subject (McDonald et al., 2017).


  1. Program Directors should map the curricula of the CME program to (a)encourage achievement of certain goals of the CME course, (b)give faculty a universal understanding of those expected learning outcomes for new intensive programs, and (c) sequence courses in such a way to scaffold knowledge across the curricula to allow for sufficient time for learning outcomes to be introduced, developed, and mastered (McDonald et al., 2017).
  • Map existing programs and compare them to maps created of the revised programs.
  • To do this, begin by (a)outlining learning outcomes and competencies related to each outcome on the y- axis and (b)outlining objectives of each course within the CME program on the x-axis in the order that courses within that program are offered. Next, faculty will determine where existing learning outcomes were introduced, developed, or mastered.
  • This mapping exercise allows faculty to decide whether to create new courses or discard existing courses to achieve the revised program student outcomes (McDonald et al., 2017).


  1. Once the revised program outline is determined, begin redesigning each course (McDonald et al., 2017).
  • Redesign each course following Quality Matters (QM) principles. Program directors and faculty involved with the course redesign process should be trained in QM principles that emphasize the importance of learning objectives, formative assessments, summative assessments, course materials, student activities, and course technologies working together to ensure students achieve the desired learning outcomes (McDonald et al., 2014). QM equally emphasizes the importance of ridding courses of any extraneous teaching tools that do not directly support learning objectives.
  • Utilize the following guideline tips in order to ensure consistency in course design and workload across the CME program:
    • Ensure that the course format follows a consistent structure in that (a)the online look and online experience across courses in a program are consistent on the medical training software, (b)the menu items are consistent, and (c)the folders to organize course content have a similar structure.
    • Ensure that course content aligns with course objectives in that there are (a)adequate digitized materials to support achievement of course objectives, and (b)major assessments to measure progress toward mastery of objectives.
    • Create a summative assessment by Week 3 so that students can determine their progress in the online program early on enough to improve.
    • Ensure that assignment types best demonstrate student mastery of knowledge of that particular subject (McDonald et al., 2017).
  • Pilot the online program offered through the medical training software with a sample student group and have students provide feedback via surveys and more unstructured interviews (McDonald et al., 2017). This should inform final revisions to improve the student experience.
  • Ensure your digitized materials are seamlessly accessed on the medical training software. This way, time is optimally spent learning and not wasted with technical roadblocks encountered by students. Additionally, ensure that assignments and coursework adequately meet credit hour requirements of regulatory bodies.  This way, when you administer your CME program, students earn certificates only when they have spent an adequate amount of time within the online course platform engaging with course materials, and not a moment before the minimum time threshold has been reached (McDonald et al., 2017).




Beaumont, K. (2017, May 9). The importance of continuing medical education [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Casebeer, L., Brown, J., Roepke, N., Grimes, C., Henson, B., Palmore, R., Granstaff, U. S., & Salinas, G. D. (2010). Evidence-based choices of physicians: A comparative analysis of physicians participating in Internet CME and non-participants. BMC Medical Education, 10, 1-6. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-10-42

McDonald, P. L., Harwood. K. J., Butler, J. T., Schlumpf, K. S., Eschmann, C. W., & Drago, D. (2017). Design for success: Identifying a process for transitioning to an intensive online course delivery model in health professions education. Medical Education Online, 23, 1415617. doi: 10.1080/10872981.2017.1415617

McDonald, P. L., Lyons, L. B., Straker, H. O., Barnett, J. S., Schlumpf, K. S., Cotton, L., & Corcoran, M. A. (2014). Educational mixology: A pedagogical approach to promoting adoption of technology to support new learning models in health science disciplines. Online Learning, 18, 33-50. doi: 10.24059/olj.v18i4.514

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