MOC Tip of the Month
By Dr. John Parboosingh, FRCSC

“Check in” with a query, “check out” a self-learning idea: How question libraries can improve access to CPD

The MOC tip about using Yahoo Groups to enable “virtual hallway consults” inspired me. It’s amazing how much advances in information technology and the technical know-how of Fellows have the potential to give new life to Personal Learning Projects (PLPs).

If you’re exploring PLPs as a way to strengthen your own self-directed learning under the MOC Program, I invite you to consider the value of developing a PLP question library with your colleagues.

A shareable library of questions raised in practice

The idea is to create an archived, indexed and searchable database of PLP questions and statements of issues that Fellows encounter in their practices. Sharing questions with peers can initiate valuable group discussions and stimulate group learning activities around common challenges (clinical and administrative), as encouraged, for instance, in Alberta’s Physician Learning Program. (This program provides learning opportunities for physicians to explore clinical questions and start assessment projects that can be claimed for MOC Section 3 credits.)

Question libraries have the potential to benefit everyone

In addition to connecting Fellows with a common area of interest, question libraries can also be used by Fellows who mentor residents. Sharing CPD questions raised by practising physicians will help residents learn how to raise questions of their own in practice.

In addition, program planners can use question libraries to align their continuing professional development activities with real-time physician needs. Similarly, national specialty societies can use them to inform needs assessments for future conferences and bring together Fellows who are asking similar questions in practice.

Two ways to get started

  1. Start at your university library: If you are affiliated with a university, exploring the options already available to you with library staff is a good place to start. Your university library staff may already have a license to use software that has question‑library capabilities, or can suggest another avenue of exploration.
  2. Sign up for a free online database: These days, there are many Internet companies that specialize in online databases with simple interfaces that require no coding. For example, I have been using the free version of a PBworks wiki with a group of eight medical educators to share research questions on how to integrate social learning theory into CPD. 

I encourage you to try out a question library of your own and give new life to an old idea that’s tried and tested (Parboosingh 2000).

Dr. Parboosingh, FRCSC, is professor emeritus in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medical Education at the University of Calgary. He was the Royal College’s first director of Continuing Professional Development and helped develop the “Question Library” of PCDiary in 1997, the first generation of what is today the Royal College’s MAINPORT ePortfolio. At that time, 1,400 physicians used PCDiary’s Question Library to share 35,000 learning items.

*Parboosingh, J. “Tools to assist physicians to manage their informational needs.” In Information Literacy: Models for the Future. Edited by Christine Bruce and Phil Candy. Published by Charles Stuart University Centre for Information Studies. Chapter 10 121-136 (2000).



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