AVMA members have been clamoring for it, and now it has arrived. The Association is unveiling its long-awaited, comprehensive online continuing education program Dec. 1, putting a profusion of presentations and articles by the profession's top speakers and authors at people's fingertips.
AVMA Ed, "Lifelong learning for the veterinary profession," available at www.avmaed.org, is the Association's most important new member service. The online program effectively allows anyone to learn about the latest developments in veterinary medicine from the convenience of their home or workplace, on their time.
AVMA Executive Vice President W. Ron DeHaven said offering CE online was about meeting member needs for everyone, young and old.
"Veterinary medicine is continually evolving. The public is demanding more sophisticated care. Online CE is another way to provide veterinarians an opportunity to advance their education, stay abreast of new knowledge in the profession, and take advantage of new technology," Dr. DeHaven said.
Dr. Althea Jones, AVMA online professional services editor, calls the initiative "standard setting" and a "much-needed CE solution."
"We are excited about bringing the breadth and quality of AVMA educational programs to a wider audience, with a format that we think meets the needs of today's professionals," Dr. Jones said.
Content for AVMA Ed comes from the AVMA Annual Convention and the Association's two scientific journals, the JAVMA and AJVR.
"By combining these rich resources in an online medium, we are creating a whole new core competency of the Association that now is available 24/7 to a global audience," Dr. Jones said.
David Little, director of the AVMA Convention and Meeting Planning Division, said convention presentations given over the course of four or five days, even to a maximum capacity audience, take on a whole new scope when they are adapted for a virtually limitless audience. Including convention sessions as a component of online CE exposes people to hundreds of educational programs whenever they can fit them in and wherever they are—at home, at work, or in a hotel room.
"With so many relevant sessions to choose from on-site, now our members can continue to enrich their knowledge by going online and viewing additional presentations as time permits," Little said.
Dr. DeHaven agrees, pointing out that not everyone can afford, from a time or financial standpoint, to go to a meeting to obtain CE credit.
"This provides a cheaper and more convenient alternative," Dr. DeHaven said, by taking the AVMA's existing core competencies into a whole new medium.
"There's so much fantastic CE we offer at convention, but even if we have 4,000 veterinarians attend, that's less than 5 percent of our membership we are reaching. By recording our speakers, we get far more use out of the CE," Dr. DeHaven said.
Participants who register on the AVMA Ed Web site can browse for free. To view the full offerings and take an examination will require a credit card payment. Nonmembers are welcome, but AVMA members receive a discount, and Student AVMA members enjoy free access. Also, one free course will be offered to every user through Dec. 31.
Approximately 50 hours of convention presentations are now available on the site. These 50-minute sessions are subdivided into shorter segments for easier viewing. Additional features such as speaker biographies and notes are included. Two to three articles from each issue of the JAVMA are available, beginning with the Oct. 1, 2008 issue. A five-question test following a review of the online presentation or article can earn a participant one hour of CE credit, when successfully completed.
In addition to being used for CE and credit, AVMA Ed is a valuable resource for the general public and allied health professionals as well as foreign licensees and their institutions.
Topics covered include small animal veterinary medicine, bovine medicine, equine medicine, animal welfare, animal behavior, practice management, oncology, dentistry, neurology, swine medicine, and aquatic animal medicine.
Will the AVMA's online CE be accepted by all licensing boards?
"Most states, we have found, understand the value of online CE, especially from a trusted, recognized source," Dr. Jones said.
Of course, the live convention will continue as always, with its unique networking opportunities.
"There will always be a need and a desire for face-to-face interaction in our profession. There are huge benefits from such interaction that people can get no other way," she said.
AVMA members of all ages have been demanding online CE for some time now. The 2006 JAVMA readership survey found that 43 percent of JAVMA readers wanted for-credit CE from JAVMA, with 41 percent interested in self testing. The 2007 Member Needs Assessment survey found 70 percent of members want the AVMA to provide online courses, with nearly two-thirds of members over age 60 represented in this group. Even so, the younger members' interest was strongest, with 82 percent of members under age 30 requesting online courses.
The AVMA Executive Board approved the program concept in April "and it's been full speed ahead ever since," Dr. Jones said. AVMA Ed has been working with a respected, independent educational testing service to ensure the highest quality in its online CE courses.
Dr. DeHaven said after receiving overwhelming feedback by members demanding more CE opportunities online, the Association has now filled that need, especially with the younger generation of veterinarians.
"That's not to say older members cannot benefit, particularly for those who may need to round out their requirements for licensure or pick up a few more hours," Dr. DeHaven said. "This is all about providing member service for all, young and old."