Context: Modern computer technology permits the creation of detailed, dynamic electronic curriculum maps to facilitate curriculum searching, organisation and quality assurance. However, when attempting to map curricular content, a common question to arise is: 'To what should we map our curriculum?' With respect to content (i.e. the subject being taught, learned or examined), mapping to terminal outcomes or competencies may be too broad, whereas mapping to learning objectives is too specific.
Methods: To address this problem, the authors created TIME-ITEM (topics for indexing medical education; en Français: index des thèmes pour l'éducation médicale), a hierarchical taxonomy of topics relevant to medical education. It is a general-purpose, intermediate-granularity, standardised index that covers the entire range of subject matter in medical education. The content and structure of topics within TIME was developed in consultation with medical educators and librarians at several Canadian medical schools. As far as possible, the language used is standardised to the Unified Medical Language System.
Results: TIME is available as a web application that allows users from various schools to enter their school-specific outcomes, competencies and learning objectives, and then link these to the standardised topics in a way that is meaningful to the school. The entire TIME content and structure can then be exported, via xml, to external applications and used as an index for curriculum mapping, meta-tagging learning objects, or categorising examination questions. TIME can be viewed at http://www.time-item.org (username: 'guest'; password: 'guest').