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Face-to-Face Learning: Contemporary Perspectives

Jupiter, Jesse MD

Techniques in Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery: June 2013 - Volume 17 - Issue 2 - p 61
doi: 10.1097/BTH.0b013e3182957026

Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: The author reports no conflicts of interest and no source of funding.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jesse Jupiter, MD, Mass General Hospital, Yawkey Bldg Suite 2100, Boston MA 02114. E-mail:

As I struggled to navigate the cavernous halls of the McCormick Center at the recent American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, trying to take maximal advantage of the countless educational offerings, I began to wonder about the actual learning one will receive from the wide variety of educational platforms. Without question, the annual meetings of our various societies are a wonderful place to renew acquaintances, marvel at the accomplishments of our former residents and fellows, and develop new ideas for research or educational projects. But given the rapidly expanding technologies of web-based and multimedia educational programs, how truly effective as a learning tool are “face-to-face” programs such as symposia and instructional courses?

In reality, these “face-to-face” programs all too often are centered around the faculty’s interest and expertise, with the curriculum established by the perspectives of the moderator. The manner of information presentation can be inconsistent, repetitive, and not always fulfilling the needs and experience of the learner.

With iPad in hand, I soon realized that I could sit anywhere in the hall, on the bus, or in my hotel room and obtain information from a variety of sources more specific to my interest and needs at the time. The advantages of “E-learning” for the learner include the fact that its platform provides multimedia content, interactivity, personalization with ease of access, and ready availability. The content can be continuously updated, flexible, accommodating to different learning styles, and thus truly efficient. But it requires active learning in contrast to the passive nature of a symposia or instructional course.

For the teacher, “E-learning” broadens the reach of the material with marginal cost, helps teach more difficult concepts, can provide a consistent method of delivery, and can build-in an assessment of performance and learning.

“E-learning” fits well into the surgeon’s life. One can integrate study more easily into the daily schedule, preparing for specific cases with surgical video or technical manuals, maximize use of “downtime,” find availability almost anywhere, and accommodate to different learning styles. The platform is expansive, providing established or new information, clinical skills acquisition, or even serve for continuing medical education credits or as an examination prep tool.

We are now witnessing the development of web-based programs providing access to articles from multiple journals, offering the reader the ability to scan articles directly in line with their interests rather than rely on traditional journals whose content strives to be broad based.

Modern adult learning should provide one the opportunity to develop his or her own style of learning and match this with information fulfilling his or her specific needs. It should be available at the time and place of choice of the learner. It might challenge those comfortable with the traditions of “face-to-face” teaching; however, given the economic constraints facing most of us, it will increasingly become a major source of information transmission and effective life-long learning.

Just think, with my smart phone and the AAOS App, I no longer had to personally ask the information guides locations of ready rooms, dining locations, or courses.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins