Online Medical Education

Read our Medical Student Guide here: MedicalSchoolStudentGuideJanuary2018

Blue Marble University Online Medical School is on the cutting edge of medical education, and in a short time, nearly every medical school will be delivering course content online.

This is because online medical education is here now, and is no longer considered second class, or inferior, but rather the superior new medical education model for the non-clinical portion of the medical curriculum. In the near future it is more than likely that even clinical training in part will be offered online. Stanford University School of Medicine notes that when students come to class they may well  be meeting with patients on video.

As Charles Prober M.D. observed: “The traditional lecture format persists even as class attendance is plummeting and as many complain that the current system is failing to produce compassionate, well-trained physicians. Students are being taught roughly the same way they were taught when the Wright brothers were tinkering at Kitty Hawk.”
[Dr. Prober is Professor of Pediatrics as well as Microbiology/Immunology, and is Senior Associate Dean of Medical Education at Stanford University School of Medicine].

If you want to see the face of the new online medical education model, this is it:

“Prober also has been working closely with Salman “Sal” Khan, the Silicon Valley-based online learning pioneer whose nonprofit effort, Khan Academy, is widely credited, in the words of Bill Gates, for having “turned the classroom — and the world of education — on its head.” Prober and co-author Chip Heath’s perspective piece proposes a Khan Academy-styled “flipped-classroom” model of teaching. Lecture content is packaged in 10- to 15-minute videos that are watched by the students at their own pace and as often as necessary to learn the material. Class time is then freed up for more interactive education, with greater emphasis on patients’ clinical stories as a way to increase the relevance of the necessary scientific and medical knowledge. Teachers would be able to actually teach, rather than merely make speeches. [Excerpted from Stanford Medicine News Center May 2, 2012, crediting Charles Prober MD and Chip Heath PhD as co-authors of “Lecture Halls Without Lectures” published May 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine]. LectureHallsWithoutLectures

Stanford University School of Medicine published an article in 2012 entitled “Online learning initiative reinventing medical school courses”. []

The news article is so incisive of current thinking among medical professionals that we post a portion here:

Andrew Patterson, MD, associate professor of anesthesia, is convinced that the only way forward in medical education is what he calls a revolutionary path. No more of the old way — professors lecture, students listen.

Instead, the time for online learning for medical students has arrived, said Patterson, and a core group of Stanford medical professors, education technology specialists and collaborators from the Khan Academy who are working toward that future.

Charles Prober, MD, the senior associate dean for medical education at the School of Medicine, is onboard. Prober, who oversees the school’s new educational technologies, leapt to national visibility in May with the publication of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Lecture halls without lectures: A proposal for medical education.” Co-written with Chip Heath, PhD, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the article stated flatly, “It’s time to change the way we educate doctors.”


The endocrinology and women’s health tutorial, part of the Human Health and Disease course, brings together people from pathology, endocrinology, gerontology, and obstetrics and gynecology. Before going to class, students will watch videotaped lectures. The clear advantage, Patterson said, is that students who don’t follow a particular point can pause and replay the video, or pause and consult another source.

“That’s what an on-site culture can’t do,” he said. “Unprepared students zone out or don’t even come to class.” But now, using the online pilots, when they come to class they will meet with patients (live or on video), debate with their peers and do immersive group exercises, putting into practice what they’ve learned beforehand.

Part of Prober’s vision is that video instruction could be shared by the country’s leading medical schools — they all teach essentially the same material to first- and second-year students. Representatives of those schools are discussing shared curriculum, he said, and they are all reconsidering how they deliver knowledge.

Griff Harsh, MD, a professor of neurosurgery and associate dean of postgraduate medical education, said at a recent SMILI meeting that as many as nine online pilots will be produced this year for practitioners enrolled in continuing medical education. They include units on critical care ultrasound, clinical trials, antibiotics, sepsis, dermatitis and cardiac crisis management.

The benefits of online learning also could extend far beyond the School of Medicine; the videos for Patterson’s course on cardiovascular physiology will be watched by students in Rwanda, a project made possible thanks to Patterson’s longtime collaboration with medical professionals in that battered country who have, nearly miraculously, established a medical school.

The videos for the cardiovascular physiology unit will be made by the professors with the assistance of Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that since 2006 has been producing free videos about a variety of academic (and medical) topics. Khan Academy is involved with Stanford in other areas as well — for example, problem sets on Stanford’s open-source course-hosting platform, Class2Go, use the Khan exercise framework — but it has been particularly active with the School of Medicine.

“I’m very attracted to what they’re doing, very impressed by Sal Khan,” Prober said, referring to the organization’s founder. “Their mission really resonates, the mission to educate anyone, everywhere, at no cost. When we create medical education, I want to share it as broadly as possible, at no profit. If it helps raise the level of education, that’s great. That’s our mission.”

Rishi Desai, MD, a pediatric infectious disease physician and a medical fellow at the Khan Academy, is working with the medical faculty to generate content in short videos. “It’s been an honor to work with medical students and faculty here to help them make medical education more interactive and fun,” Desai said after the first of what will be a series of open houses to attract potential faculty converts and hold discussions about the mechanics and virtues of online education.

One of the people at that meeting. Don Regula, MD, a professor of pathology involved in the online endocrinology pilot, said he remains skeptical, though he’s teaching online. He insisted that class time would have to be used wisely to ensure that the knowledge sticks.

But the professors themselves say that an estimated 70 percent of medical students do not attend lectures. Clearly, the traditional approach is not working. Prober, Patterson, Regula and a growing number of medical professors are convinced that online learning is a large part of the solution.


In 2011, when Blue Marble University first opened its online medical degree program in which a student can obtain an MD degree in three years, we took our inspiration and guidance from Professor John R. Minarcik M.D. Dr. Minarcik is an American physician, board certified in anatomic and clinical pathology. He received his MD at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and completed residencies in pathology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was in the private practice of pathology until 2002, then began teaching pathology at US and Caribbean medical schools and online. He is the author of over 750 medical student educational videos in histopathology, which have been viewed over 5 million times by over 6000 medical student subscribers. His collection of pathology and histology instructional videos can be found here:

Dr. Minarcik has long made the case for online medical education. Since 2009, he has created a worldwide distance learning medical course in pathology, broadcasting pathology lectures, microscope slides, and discussions. He notes that third world medical schools can have the benefit of USA-level professors via the internet. To see more of his discussion about online medical education being vastly superior to the auditorium style medical classroom, please view his video here, in which he states that online education leads to “better hearing and better seeing”:

Finding excellent knowledgeable professors of medicine is not so easy for an online medical program such as ours which is low cost, and so the ability to pick and choose course content from many medical professionals and change it at any time appeals to us.

So, don’t think an online medical degree program is off in left field somewhere, but rather know that this form of medical education is new and real and coming soon to every medical school near you.