FOAMed resources are proving to be increasingly popular, and they’re part of the RCEM’s emerging dialogues about educational and learning cultures. This dissertation set out to establish if FOAMed resources should be recognised in the curriculum to underpin their legitimacy. It also sought to establish if some kind of reflective learning space should be developed so learners could reflect and conduct ongoing dialogues with them, which bespeaks the growing emphasis on reflection in medical education. The data establishes the first question is perhaps unwarranted; the resources don’t need to be ‘legitimised’ in the curriculum (I regret even using the word), but what would help learners is improved signposting to them. However the second question has been validated I feel by the data as a flexible and voluntary reflective space has to be introduced to allow users to demonstrate engagement with the resources in learning environments where there is still a strong emphasis on credentialisation.
‘Bringing out the mean’ was a memorable phrase from Dr Laing’s interview, and it relates to how the RCEM could improve engagement with learners who feel alienated or perhaps disenfranchised by the FOAMed movement. We have a heterogeneous cohort of learners that span multiple regions and professional grades, so we have to be aware that there’s a need for structured didactic learning (offered via the VLE) and for self-directed resources (provided via FOAMed). One significant change we hope will help ‘bring out the mean’ is the launch of an updated RCEMLearning site in early 2017. The history and technological make-up of the project meant that separate sites (VLE and FOAMed) were developed, but the new site will bring them into one consolidated digital space. This will help embed FOAMed into the RCEM’s learning cultures in a way that hyperlinking could perhaps never really do. The updated landing page is shown in the image below:
Image 14: New integrated RCEMLearning landing page
The phrase about raising the competency bar is a notable one taken from Dr Neill’s interview. In this context it relates to how enabling a straightforward way for individual learners to reflect on FOAMed resources could also represent a significant strategic step forward for the organisation. Including them in the college’s CPD diary concomitantly underpins their educational relevance and it allows users to reflect on resources in an approved organisational space which is currently lacking. This will also be a feature of the newly integrated site as RCEMLearning will host the RCEM’s CPD recording system (it has historically been located on the main college site). A screenshot of the proposed system is provided below, and it enables users to record activity details along with a blog-style section to meta-cognitively reflect on FOAMed resources (which will not just be limited to those produced by the RCEM). In keeping with the FOAMed ethos users will be able to export reflections for appraisals and for broader educational purposes if required:
Image 15: New CPD diary to be hosted on RCEMLearning
Ultimately the research question that explored if FOAMed resources should be legitimised in the curriculum was a flawed one. However one alternative idea that came to light is that FOAMed – the ‘digital water cooler’ – could be used as a dialogic space to move conversation along about what constitutes a curriculum, what it should include and who gets to shape it. This has a number of intriguing ramifications for how the curriculum seeks to remain relevant and how the organisation interacts with its stakeholders.
The study is not without its limitation of course, the most pressing of which is the modest size of both data sets. Another area that needs urgent attention is FOAMed’s policies around what Williamson (2015) calls data governance. Big data and learning analytics are pronounced themes in many contemporary discussions about digital education and the RCEM needs to think strategically about further engagement with FOAMed users, many of whom may not be members. There is also the issue of potentially alienating existing members who are antithetical to the movement. As with many OER movements there is also a degree of ambiguity about FOAMed’s efficacy; does it really improve learning? How do we capture this? How can it be measured over time? Does it improve performance in assessments and exams? Although they have pedagogical elements these questions truly reside in the domain of educational strategy, so further work is needed here. We also need to be better at educating members and learners about what we’re trying to do with our digital educational resources so we do not alienate RCEM members.
These are all involved issues, but they’re not insurmountable. The FOAMed movement has irrevocably changed how the RCEM thinks about education and how people continue to learn and stay up to date in challenging professional roles. The challenge is to now frame these emerging dialogues in ways that allow the organisation to stay relevant and for learners to continue to raise the competency bar.