The MOOC is a cornerstone of a revolution in education in which your educational experience need not be dictated by your institution. Instead, you can pick to attend the classes that best suit your needs & interests, regardless of where the lectures may actually be taking place.
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Explore This IssueApril 2019
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There is no true MOOC in rheumatology, but we are getting there. ACR Beyond, the new streaming service developed by the ACR to allow members to attend conferences virtually, also has the ability for remote attendees to ask questions of the lecturer; this level of interaction was not available with the former platform. The online journal club, #rheumjc, was founded by Paul Sufka, MD, Chris Collins, MD, and others. It has many of the characteristics of a MOOC: There is a common point of discussion, it is interactive, and participation is not limited by geography. Take either online structure, and add on group assignments, tests and course credit, and you would get a little closer.
The potential for a MOOC to revolutionize teaching in a field like rheumatology—a series of disparate subspecialties loosely connected by a common love for prednisone—is extraordinary. I could give a lecture on psoriatic arthritis, for example, but it would be like me singing falsetto: I could do it, but not well, and I would be relieved when it was over. I would, however, be delighted to field your trainee’s picayune questions about granulomatosis with polyangiitis and microscopic polyangiitis, especially if I could talk someone like Christopher Ritchlin, MD, MPH, at the University of Rochester or William Rigby, MD, from Dartmouth into giving the talk on psoriatic arthritis for me.
Now imagine a weekly seminar in which these talks would be followed by a talk on pregnancy and rheumatic disease, given by Megan Clowse, MD, at Duke or Eliza Chakravarty, MD, at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Perhaps the lecture on myositis could be given by Andrew Mammen, MD, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health or Chester Oddis, MD, from the University of Pittsburgh. Getting all of these experts to fly to a single institution, week after week, to give a single talk, would be impossible. Getting them to all teach in the same MOOC, however, is eminently doable.
MOOCs, of course, are faced by the same problems that affect brick-and-mortar institutions. For example, being able to attend a lecture in your boxers, apparently, does not increase the likelihood that you will show up; proximity and peer pressure help ensure that students show up to a lecture in a way that is difficult to replicate remotely. Another problem with MOOCs is the first O: By tradition, these courses are a public service, freely available to all. The infrastructure required for a MOOC, ranging from web platforms to lecturers, is not free, and no one has completely figured out how to make these services profitable. Still, especially for education in rare diseases, the MOOC may eventually prove to be an important advance.