Purpose: Recent changes in duty hour allowances and economic constraints are forcing a paradigm shift in graduate medical education in the United States. Internet-based learning is a rapidly growing component of postgraduate medical education, including the field of critical care medicine. Here, we define the key concepts of Internet-based learning, summarize the current literature, and describe how Internet-based learning may be uniquely suited for the critical care provider.
Methods: A MEDLINE/PubMed search from January 2000 to July 2011 using the search terms: "e-learning," "Web-based learning," "computer-aided instruction," "adult learning," "knowledge retention," "intensive care," and "critical care."
Results: The growth of the Internet is marked by the development of new technologies, including more user-derived tools. Nonmedical fields have embraced Internet-based learning as a valuable teaching tool. A recent meta-analysis described Internet-based learning in the medical field as being more effective than no intervention and likely as efficacious as traditional teaching methods. Web sites containing interactive features are aptly suited for the adult learner, complementing the paradigm shift to more learner-centered education. Interactive cases, simulators, and games may allow for improvement in clinical care. The total time spent utilizing Internet-based resources, as well as the frequency of returning to those sites, may influence educational gains.
Conclusion: Internet-based learning may provide an opportunity for assistance in the transformation of medical education. Many features of Web-based learning, including interactivity, make it advantageous for the adult medical learner, especially in the field of critical care medicine, and further work is necessary to develop a robust learning platform incorporating a variety of learning modalities for critical care providers.