Over the past few years, I’ve had to opportunity to participate in a task force titled Evidence Based Inquiry and Research Thread Task Force (EBIR) in the OSU College of Medicine. This task force was charged with integrating principles of research, evidence based clinical practice, and epidemiology and biostatistics throughout the revised curriculum formally known as “Lead.Serve.Inspire.” One of the hallmarks of the LSI curriculum is the idea of providing self-directed learning as an option. To achieve such a goal, the creation of many electronic modules was undertaken by many medical faculty, including some of us on the EBIR task force.

While some of the electronic modules are simply narrated power point presentations, others are definitely works one might call digital scholarship. Some provide a glimpse of what the textbooks and journals of the future could be, with embedded videos to compare normal and abnormal states and other features to engage students in their learning. These pieces of digital scholarship can form the basis of flipped classroom designs, especially when used in conjunction with team based learning sessions, also integrated throughout LSI.

This was a huge undertaking for the College of Medicine and to some degree required a switch in both the ways faculty approach teaching as well as the way students approach learning. In the Academic Medicine article “Medical education reimagined: a call to action,” Prober and Khan discuss the idea of the flipped classroom and the idea of reaching students where they already are: in the digital world. Khan is most notably known for founding Khan Academy,  whose goal is “changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” Previously, this site was known for its role in K-12 education. Recently, the organization has entered the health sciences full force with the development of an MCAT review series and a current competition to recruit content creators for an NCLEX review series, providing chunks of information for nursing students to prep for this licensure exam, all freely on the web. The Khan Academy interface also allows for commenting, publicly calling out specific areas of controversy or asking for corrections – a public peer review system of sorts. Khan has expressed a recent interest in using open access materials from sources like the National Library of Medicine to enhance its health sciences efforts.

Certainly Khan Academy is not the only player in the world of online medical education content. But, the look and feel of their content gets my attention and fuels my thoughts about what digital scholarship in the health sciences could be like. What might happen if MCAT prep tools such as Khan’s prepares a different type of learner for med school, one that maybe would not have gotten accepted before? What happens when we begin to engage the minds of students in the health sciences in new ways using digital scholarship? What new treatments and scientific advances could come from this engagement of their minds? We can only speculate at this point, but the possibilities are definitely exciting.