eLos: The Cream of the e-Learning Crop

In the medical world, the last couple of years have seen an enormous proliferation of digital conferences, online learning platforms, webinars and more. Indeed, we here at CAKE magazine have been deeply involved with this proliferation, and think it’s one of the neatest things we’ve come across in our many years in the ophthalmic field.

But inevitably, the cream rises to the top in the medical world, and the same holds true with online educational platforms. There’s only room for so many — there’s not only a limited number of ophthalmic professionals, but also limited attention span for each individual. Such is the premise of the paper Tips to optimize digital education in ophthalmology: results from ESASO survey by Mariantonia Ferrara, Vito Romano, Claudio Iovino, Mustafa R Kadhim, Elon HC van Dijk, Camiel JF Boon, Piergiacomo Grassi, Sibel Demirel, Cristian Cartes, Mario R Romano, on behalf of the e-LOS Study Group which has recently been accepted for publication in the European Journal of Ophthalmology.*

So, that’s why we’re here to talk about the eLos learning platform, supported by the European School for Advanced Studies in Ophthalmology (ESASO). The platform is unique in terms of its quality, privacy and interaction.

To get a better feel for the platform, we spoke with Prof. Mario Romano, professor of ophthalmology at Humanitas University in Milan, Italy, and holder of other illustrious titles as well. Notably, he’s the scientific director for ESASO’s eLos platform. We also spoke with Richard Packard, MD DO FRCS FRCOphth FEBOS-CR, a veritable legend in the ophthalmic world and guru of cataract surgery, having taught in more than 60 countries and performed surgeries in more than 20.

So, what makes the eLos platform so special? What can we expect from it now and in the future? Let’s dive in.

eLos: Connectivity, Community, Learning and Privacy

Prof. Romano introduced us to the concept of the eLos platform, which we just love. Simply put, it’s a custom-built online learning platform and an active community where ophthalmic specialists can share information with confidence.

There are four key elements that define the eLos platform, said Prof. Romano. It’s a community for ophthalmic specialists, it’s private (i.e., requires an invitation and/or confirmation that the members are health care professionals), it’s a safe place for sharing and learning, and the functionality of the platform facilitates interactivity and keep the engagement between the doctors as well as between the students and the teachers.

Because ophthalmology is a unique specialty, ophthalmologists need a place that’s just theirs. That idea led to the concept of a specialist community, defined by what it is rather than what it isn’t.

ESASO is currently the gate keeper for membership, which helps ensure that active members are indeed not just knowledgeable ophthalmologists, but those that are genuinely interested in learning and sharing their experiences. Trolls and fake accounts are booted out, of course, as are those who produce poor content, but these types of accounts are usually prevented from entering in the first place.

Crucially, because ophthalmologists frequently share videos and ask questions on the platform, they need to be able to do so away from the prying eyes of patients and detractors. As Prof. Romano noted, one bad review or leak of confidential information can make doctors reluctant to share information. So, to ensure confidence, the platform is limited to those who are confirmed health care professionals. As of now, the majority of the 13,000 members on the platform are European. However, we can reasonably expect membership to grow across other continents as well in the coming years.

A major focus of eLos is on active learning. While a platform like YouTube can be great for passive learning by watching videos, those who share their videos and queries on eLos can be sure their viewers and responders will be knowledgeable and respectful professionals. That’s the kind of situation real learning can take place in.

What kind of content is on eLos?

The eLos platform hosts a wide variety of content that can be beneficial to all in the ophthalmic industry. For example, live and recorded surgery videos, webcasts, tele-mentoring and company-shared information can all find a home on eLos.

One thing that sets eLos apart from its competitors, as mentioned, is that ESASO moderates the community. While this is passive — content can be freely uploaded and questions freely asked — negativity, badmouthing and the like have no place on the platform. This ensures a positive atmosphere that encourages learning and improvement. Many viewers may simply want to communicate directly with the lead surgeon that has shared a video and not with the wider community — and the platform offers that possibility.

Mr. Packard alluded to a bit of “content fatigue” when it comes to online content in ophthalmology, and we completely understand. That’s why differentiation through the quality of content and the interactive experience provided is paramount, and why we think eLos will succeed in the long run.

Learning Across Borders

One crucial element that’s lacking in much online learning is interactivity — something that many ophthalmic trainees may not get much of in many countries. As Mr. Packard poetically put it, training is often far too didactic in many places. It can ignore the human elements of curiosity, experience and connectivity. That’s where eLos really shines: With real, human connectivity and a lack of fear of judgment, learners of any ability level can up their knowledge levels.

Completing a fellowship in a country like the U.K. or Italy isn’t always doable, but ophthalmologists in countries around the world still need the most up-to-date educational info to give best possible care to their patients. So, a platform like eLos fits that bill just right: In a collegial atmosphere, a current or aspiring ophthalmologist can get top-notch information without having to book a plane ticket.

Industry Support

With the support of industry pioneers like HOYA Surgical Optics (Singapore), ophthalmologists on the platform can also count on additional information and resources. Their group called Masters, offers high-quality educational content, courses, and events to meet surgeons’ learning needs. It’s a place where ophthalmic specialists can exchange their points of view and learn from other masters. And their group called CME courses for aspiring masters hosts courses available for continuing medical education credit. In fact, the first series of courses are taught by Mr. Packard. As readers well know, keeping current with surgical trends and educational requirements is crucial to success in the modern world of ophthalmology. We all know how quickly treatments evolve, and having industry backers keeps eLos especially relevant.  

Want to know more? Be sure to check out the eLos website and see what’s going on at ESASO. Be sure to also regularly check the ESCRS website, Mr. Packard’s home turf, for continual updates and publications. And be sure to come check back with us regularly, too, as we’ll keep a close eye on eLos. May the winds of fortune carry you to favorable pastures.

*Ferrara M, Romano V, Iovino C, et al.; e-LOS Study Group. Tips to optimize digital education in ophthalmology: results from ESASO survey. Eur J Ophthalmol. [In press]

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