NEJM Knowledge+ Question of the Week: A Novel Virtual Learning Community Effectively Utilizing an Online Discussion Forum

Objectives: Asynchronous virtual learning communities provide learners with the ability to enhance their learning and contribute to their peers’ learning in a safe environment. However, the tone and content of learner comments, the level of engagement among learners, and the role of moderators have not been well studied within non-course-related virtual learning communities. Therefore, we sought to explore these characteristics using the NEJM Knowledge+ Question of the Week (NEJM Knowledge+ QoW) forum, a web-based asynchronous virtual learning community.

Methods: We reviewed 73 NEJM Knowledge+ questions posted on the QoW forum between 2015 and 2016. We then selected three QoWs to analyze through a multistep coding process based on three broad criteria that aligned with our study aims.

Results: Learner comments reflected both positive and critical tones, with learners sharing their own clinical practice and local experiences to contextualize their perspectives and reactions to both the QoW answer and the responses of other learners. Learners also commonly requested moderators to act as expert referees.

Conclusion: Asynchronous virtual learning communities can engage learners by providing the opportunity to enhance their knowledge through responding to proposed medical scenarios and sharing their experiences in a discussion forum. Future work should examine the impact that geographic region has on asynchronous virtual learning communities and the role of moderators in shaping the learning experience.