Cochrane reviews have come a long way in twenty years. As we all work hard to maximise the quality and the usefulness of our reviews, Cochrane reviews now routinely incorporate more complex methods and address more complex questions. As an organization rooted firmly in our collaborative community and our volunteer ethos, how do we balance our dual aims of enabling new colleagues to get involved, and achieving that quality and complexity?
One of many highlights at this week’s Global Evidence Summit is the launch of the new Cochrane Interactive Learning, an online, introductory course on how to conduct a systematic review of interventions. This represents a major advance in our online learning approach, bringing together the world-leading expertise of Cochrane’s methodologist community with best practice in modern interactive learning design and pedagogy.
Over nine modules and 100+ bite-size pieces of self-directed learning, the course will serve as a comprehensive introduction to new authors, or a refresher and update for experienced authors and editors. The course covers framing a review, searching for studies, risk of bias assessment based on the new Cochrane Risk of Bias 2.0 tool, meta-analysis, GRADE and Summary of Findings tables, integrating economic evidence, drawing conclusions and reporting the review. The modules provide clear explanations with stimulating interactions, quizzes, animations, examples and reference resources, and enables authors to tailor their learning experience and complete assessments to demonstrate their learning.
For the first time, through Cochrane Innovations, our online learning will be accessible beyond the Cochrane community. Systematic review authors, educators, researchers, health professionals, policy makers and guideline and HTA organisations will be able to access Cochrane learning on a paid subscription basis, to support individual learning, professional development or as a resource integrated in a blended learning approach.
Cochrane authors, editorial teams and Group staff, along with residents of HINARI A and B countries, will be able to access the resources free of charge (see here for a complete list of eligible roles). Cochrane Members who don’t fall into those categories will qualify for a hefty discount.
So how does this introductory training connect to the balance we’re trying to strike, and the need to ensure that authors have the skills and knowledge to deliver complex methods and high level analysis?
There are two answers to that question. The first is that a solid grounding in the basics is always essential. As methods evolve over time, and as we reflect on our own common errors through the lens of the Cochrane Editorial Unit’s quality improvement programme, checking back with our foundational methods is never a waste of time. I’ve been teaching Cochrane methods for more than ten years, but I feel profoundly fortunate to continue learning from our generous methods experts (and continued to do so while building these modules, thank you Kerry Dwan, Julian Higgins, Carol Lefebvre, Matthew Page, Nancy Santesso, Jonathan Sterne and Luke Vale).
Providing increased access to this learning was also an important goal for this project – learners will be able to access content of this calibre from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection, when and where it suits them, using a laptop, tablet or phone.
The second part of the answer is that this course forms only part of a more complex picture. The knowledge conveyed in these modules is a grounding, but they cannot convey the full range and depth of methods and expertise that author teams must bring to many Cochrane reviews. It’s our hope that Cochrane’s extensive network of trainers and editorial teams will find these resources a useful tool to integrate with and complement their support for Cochrane authors. Cochrane Interactive Learning can complement face-to-face training workshops in a blended learning approach; be used as modular recommendations for authors with specific learning needs; and provide a foundation to enable limited training time and resources to focus on more personalized support or training in more advanced topics.
This is the culmination of two years of work, and my sincere thanks go to Dario Sambunjak and Chris Watts who have dedicated so much of their time and knowledge to this project, along with Giulia Boselli, Ruth Foxlee, Richard Hollis, Martin Janczyk, Toby Lasserson, Holly Millward, Charlotte Pestridge, Paolo Rosati, Zoë Rose, Roger Tritton, Gert van Valkenhoef, Maxine Whitton, and our technology and eLearning partners, City & Guilds Kineo and HT2.
The first four modules of Cochrane Interactive Learning are available now for free trial access for individuals and institutions until 5 November.
Head of Learning & Support
Cochrane Central Executive