eLearning for Rural Practice

Recently I took part in a teleconference with Malcolm Ward, RCGP Chair of the Rural Form, and Ben Riley, Medical Director for eLearning at the RCGP, to discuss ways of improving access to online CPD to rural practitioners.

There is a lot happening to make more online learning accessible to medical practitioners, particularly as the use of online educational modules is increasingly encouraged to support preparation for appraisal and revalidation.  This is reflected in the scale of work happening under the umbrella of the Department of Health’s “E-Learning for Healthcare” programme (see www.e-GP.org).  Royal Colleges of most specialties are investing heavily to offer their members access to accredited and relevant updates.

The RCGP has a number of ongoing projects, but central to revalidation are the Essential Knowledge Updates which some members may already be familiar with.  These aim to provide RCGP members with a 6-monthly update of the most pertinent changes in practice, via an online learning module.

However, through various conversations, the RCGP Rural Forum is acutely aware that some remote and rural practitioners experience significant difficulty in accessing online content, especially due to slow internet connections.  Judging from recent comments from the telecommunications industry, this is unlikely to change overnight.  And so, if too much reliance is placed on high-bandwidth video and media content for eLearning, this could prevent many of our rural colleagues from accessing this core resource.

What’s the answer?  We’d like to invite ideas!  The Rural Forum is looking into ways of signposting rural practitioners to particular modules of interest, and this could include an indicator of how fast your connection needs to be for certain modules.  We are also looking into other ways of providing access to elearning resources – perhaps via CD-Rom or memory stick.  This is work in progress.

In the meantime we would like to invite your comments, not least to understand the scale of the problem.  If you’re a rural GP and concerned about access to these resources – please get in touch, and contribute to our online poll on this issue – available shortly.

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