Quality Appraisal and Assurance Techniques for Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) Resources: A Rapid Review
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Free open access medical education (FOAM) has disrupted traditional modes of knowledge translation and dissemination. These are popular resources with a wide educational reach. Nephrology has been a leader in FOAM, but many skeptics still question the accuracy and reliability of this content. Recently, quality-assurance techniques have been developed to address these concerns. These techniques may be helpful for readers to appraise the online literature and for institutions to reward the production of high-quality open educational resources. We performed a rapid review of the literature. A medical librarian conducted a systematic search of the Medline and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature databases. Two independent assessors screened and selected articles, performed a hand-search of reference lists, and scored articles on their quality using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument. Thirteen reports were included for the final descriptive analysis. We identified 10 quality-assessment techniques, and 4 of them having been validated. The quality of the reports was fairly high, with an average Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument score of 11.5 of 18 (SD, 2.3; range, 7.25-14.25). The calculated Cronbach α was 0.85. There is burgeoning literature on the topic of critical appraisal of open educational resources, and, more specifically, FOAM resources. Many of the techniques used are of varying quality and developed with different intended uses and audiences. By continuing to refine these tools, we can continue not only to support and legitimize the FOAM movement, but also foster individual critical appraisal skills that increasingly are necessary in this age of information.