E-learning tools for education: regulatory aspects, current applications in radiology and future prospects.Radiol Med. 2008 Feb; 113(1):144-57.RM
E-learning, an abbreviation of electronic learning, indicates the provision of education and training on the Internet or the World Wide Web. The impact of networks and the Internet on radiology is undoubtedly important, as it is for medicine as a whole. The Internet offers numerous advantages compared with other mass media: it provides access to a large amount of information previously known only to individual specialists; it is flexible, permitting the use of images or video; and it allows linking to Web sites on a specific subject, thus contributing to further expand knowledge. Our purpose is to illustrate the regulatory aspects (including Internet copyright laws), current radiological applications and future prospects of e-learning. Our experience with the installation of an e-learning platform is also presented.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
We performed a PubMed search on the published literature (without time limits) dealing with e-learning tools and applications in the health sector with specific reference to radiology. The search included all study types in the English language with the following key words: e-learning, education, teaching, online exam, radiology and radiologists. The Fiaso study was referred to for the regulatory aspects of e-learning.
The application of e-learning to radiology requires the development of a model that involves selecting and creating e-learning platforms, creating and technologically adapting multimedia teaching modules, creating and managing a unified catalogue of teaching modules, planning training actions, defining training pathways and Continuing Education in Medicine (CME) credits, identifying levels of teaching and technological complexity of support tools, sharing an organisational and methodological model, training the trainers, operators' participation and relational devices, providing training, monitoring progress of the activities, and measuring the effectiveness of training. Since 2004, a platform--LiveLearning--has been used at our university: this is a Web-oriented application, that is, an Internet software solution that users can access through a Web browser. The pages displayed by the browser are dynamically generated through interaction with a database that collects both data required for the application to work and data related to the courses provided. There are different approaches to developing applications that use databases to store information. The selected approach is based on a modular three-level architecture divided into presentation level, intermediate level, and data level. The LiveLearning platform includes modules to manage multimedia contents and to interface with the streaming server so that the student can access the training contents directly from the platform interfaces. Furthermore, the platform offers its users different modules: Teaching Units, Documents, Forums, and Chats. By appropriately combining these modules, customised training can be devised based on specific requirements.
The increasing diffusion of continuous education will reduce the costs of e-learning and make this training method, which helps keep pace with technological progress, more attractive, with significant professional gains for radiologists.