Online curricula can make high-quality health professions education accessible in virtually any setting. They can enhance teaching and learning by both standardizing curricular resources and individualizing curricular experiences. Despite growing demand for and institutional interest in online curricula for medical education, many medical educators lack a framework for online curriculum development. Without rigorous and thoughtful development, online curricula can waste opportunity and resources by leading to education that is inferior to traditional methods. In this article, the authors describe a systematic approach to online curriculum development based on the Six-Step Approach for Curriculum Development for Medical Education, a widely used method that has led to successful implementation of a variety of traditional and online curricula. In each step, special considerations for curricula with larger and more diverse learner audiences—characteristic of many online curricula—are highlighted. Four common online curricular formats are also discussed: blended curricula, instructor-led fully online curricula, self-paced modules, and massive open online courses (MOOCs). The authors emphasize factors that differentiate one online format from another, including the budgetary, technical, and human resource requirements for each. The article concludes by urging medical educators to pursue opportunities to study and disseminate online curricular work.
B.Y. Chen is director, Faculty Development Programs in Curriculum Development, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and assistant professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland; ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9905-6180.
D.E. Kern is emeritus professor of medicine, past director, Faculty Development Programs in Curriculum Development, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and past director, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland; ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9327-6190.
R.M. Kearns is director, Online Education, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
P.A. Thomas is professor of medicine and vice dean for medical education, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.
M.T. Hughes is assistant professor of medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, and coeditor, Johns Hopkins Internal Medicine Ambulatory Care Curriculum on PEAC: Physician Education and Assessment Center, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
S. Tackett is assistant professor of medicine and international medical education director, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland; ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5369-7225.
Funding/Support: None reported.
Other disclosures: B.Y. Chen, D.E. Kern, P. Thomas, and M.T. Hughes are editors and authors for the textbook Curriculum Development for Medical Education: A Six-Step Approach and receive royalties from Johns Hopkins University Press for sales of that book.
Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.
Previous presentations: Aspects of this article were presented during a workshop “From Modules to MOOCs” presented at the Society for General Internal Medicine national conference; May 14, 2016; Hollywood, Florida.
Supplemental digital content for this article is available at http://links.lww.com/ACADMED/A625.
Correspondence should be addressed to Belinda Y. Chen, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Mason F. Lord Center Tower, Suite 2300, 5200 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224; telephone: (410) 550-0510; e-mail: email@example.com.