With today’s digital technologies the classroom is omnipresent, offering paradigm-shifting changes in where and when information is shared and learned. Given these changes, the College has spent the last year developing and implementing a digital strategy whose primary objective is to leverage new delivery technology and learning methods in order to facilitate continuous performance improvement, optimal practice management and improved outcomes across patient populations while still meeting the needs of learners who prefer the traditional classroom setting.

As implementation of the strategy continues, a recent survey of 188 ACC learners and 225 ACC educational product users offers a glimpse at this changing landscape, as well as important insights into member educational needs.

“Providing the right content to the right member at the right time is more critical than ever.” — John G. Harold, MD, MACC, President, American College of Cardiology

Not surprisingly, learners access and utilize a mix of mediums and platforms to meet their learning needs. Educational courses (77%), which includes conferences and board reviews, and journals (73%) top the list as platforms used most often for accessing educational content followed by websites (54%), self-assessment products (SAPS - 40%), in-person lectures (40%), and online educational courses (38%).

Access to Educational ContentWhile the Journal of the American College of Cardiology continues to rank among the top educational products, CardioSource.org* is also considered a major source for education. Other resources that are also highly regarded by cardiovascular professionals include the New England Journal of Medicine, the online resource Up-to-Date, lectures and grand rounds.

According to the research, online modules (69%) go head to head with in-person meetings (64%) in the fight for the preferred educational format. When given the choice between an actual live course and a meeting on demand — an online video recording of a live course — learners are mixed with one-third (31%) saying they prefer live courses, 26% preferring meetings on demand and one-quarter (25%) opting for both formats.

The push toward digital formats and personalization cannot be overstated. When asked how ACC live programs can be improved, offering discounts on relevant digital content (SAPS and meetings on demand – 28%) to supplement the course tops the list. Other suggestions to improve live courses include more flexible session schedules (24%), Maintenance of Certification (MOC) sessions (23%), more personalized learning opportunities (21%), and specialty relevance (20%).

ACC’s Self-Assessment Products ranked highly on the educational product list with nearly half (48%) indicating they are users and another 42% saying they are aware of SAPs. The digital theme emerges again when discussing SAP improvements as half of learners expressed interest in a downloadable app to access ACC SAPs on a mobile device or tablet. In addition, 32% of respondents showed interest in an audio version, while 24% were interested in a question of the week as a new feature.

Learners expressed interest in CardioSource Plus for institutions, a yearly subscription offering from the ACC that provides access to all of the ACC’s online educational offerings – the latest releases from all SAPs and MODs, more than 400 CME credits, more than 200 points toward ABIM’s Maintenance of Certification Program and thousands of self-assessment questions and case studies. About one-fourth of those surveyed reported that their facility already subscribes to the service accessing the site at least once a month; over half (55%) of non-subscribers were very interested in this service.

The Evolution of Clinical EducationTo create a more personalized learner experience, the ACC has developed the Lifelong Learning Portfolio (LLP) which is an online tool that identifies licensure requirements and tracks personalized professional data, including training, certification, re-certification, licensing, performance improvement and payer requirements (CME, MOC, MOL, etc.). The tool also directs learners to appropriate curricula to meet their unique needs and tracks and catalogs improvements in knowledge, outcomes, performance, and patient care. While most ACC learners (65%) were not familiar with the LLP, half (47%) said that they were very interested in the offering with tracking of personalized professional data, access to online credit-bearing learning activities, and information regarding licensure and MOC most appealing.

The ACC’s new Strategic Plan, currently in the implementation stage, requires that the College provide and promote a personalized, competency-based, clinically relevant educational experience to all of its members. Moving forward, the College plans to use the research results to further its educational strategy, particularly in the digital arena, and set priorities for both existing and new programs and products.

* CardioSource.org is now ACC.org.