Virtual Scenarios and Spaced Repetition

One of the key challenges that we face in Continuing Medical Education is that of absorbing and implementing the many guidelines and recommendations that are thrown at us on a daily basis. Indeed, this same principle applies in all areas of continuing education. There is just so much to keep up with.

One of the things that is known to cement new information in our mid to long term memories is the application of the information in solving a practical problem. For example, in medicine, you are much more likely to use a new drug or therapeutic approach that you have just heard about if you encounter a case shortly thereafter where you can actually put this new knowledge to good use. And the more often you successfully incorporate this new approach into your practice, the more likely it is to stick.

But this is rather hit and miss. For really common conditions, this might be fairly likely. But much of our continuing learning is directed towards important conditions that we only see occasionally. And much as we might have been impressed by the suggested new approach, the chances that we remember all the salient details are quite slim. Often, when this occurs in the middle of a busy workflow, we make well-intentioned promises to go back and look up that new approach. But things get busy, and often slip by.

Way back in the 1930s, it was recognized that timely reminders and opportunities to practise a newly learning skill, or put a new piece of information to good use, was a key factor in enhancing retention of that knowledge. (

In our current projects, we have been exploring how to use Virtual Scenarios and OpenLabyrinth to generate such challenges and opportunities. Rather than waiting for the relevant clinical case to walk through the clinic door, we have been making virtual scenarios with content and decision-making pathways that represent typical presentations for the topic at hand.

Because OpenLabyrinth can automatically send such virtual scenarios to a target group on an optimized reminder schedule (using Spaced Repetition principles), we can circumvent the need for real patients, with the condition of interest, to conveniently walk through the door. Plus, the powerful metrics in OpenLabyrinth allow us to give great feedback to our groups, as well as monitor how well the virtual scenario performs in reflecting realistic practice.

If you are interested in exploring such capabilities in your own projects, please contact us.