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The New Era of Education: A Conversation with Dr. Rishi Desai

New York, NY

Rishi Desai, MD, MPH, is the new Chief Medical Officer at Osmosis, a web and mobile education platform that helps medical, nursing, and other health professions students learn and retain information better. Dr. Desai attended Macy’s Enhancing Health Professions Education through Technology Conference and engaged in discussions to inform Macy’s new recommendations for the field.

We caught up with Dr. Desai to learn more about his work and how he sees technology as a resource to improving health professions education:

How is the educational landscape shifting?
There have been a lot of fundamental shifts in how students learn and search for information.  Historically, the first place you would go when you had a question was to track down an expert or something that he or she has written in a library, but the first place people go now is the internet. This has a lot of value in terms of access, but raises new issues of reliability and trust. 

How information is delivered is also different. People want material that they can easily understand, which is a reasonable expectation. That’s why it’s important that we evaluate online materials in terms of accuracy and scope of content as well as style of presentation.

What’s your advice to academic institutions looking to tap into new technologies?

A lot of institutions are sitting on an incredibly underutilized resource: students. Students know how to use new educational technology and they intuitively understand how the field is moving. They know the challenges and opportunities intimately. My advice to academic institutions is to meet with their students regularly to find out what students need, use, and are looking for when it comes to new tools and technologies. As soon as students get the sense that their faculty are interested in adopting new ways of doing things, they will gush with ideas.

As time goes on, we will all learn more and more about what new ideas work best. In a new field like online educational technology, there is a tendency to plant many seeds and see what blooms. As the field matures, some flowers thrive and others never sprout. We’re already starting to see that, and I expect that over time we will have more and more consensus around the things that work well. 

How did the discussions at the Macy conference impact or energize you?
The Macy conference is a rare opportunity to have a collection of individuals that cut across many universities, hospitals, educational organizations, non-profits, and for-profit entities – all working on improving learning outcomes. Attending a conference that brings people together from different backgrounds where you can learn about new perspectives and insights is really important. Everyone is doing really wonderful and exciting things – and this conference felt like a chance to share what we’re doing as well as challenge and inspire one another.

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