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Crowdsourcing to develop open-access learning resources on antimicrobial resistance

Abstract

Objectives

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a significant threat to global public health. Many medical curricula have limited clinical cases and materials focused on AMR, yet enhanced AMR education and training are needed to support antimicrobial stewardship programmes. We used crowdsourcing methods to develop open-access, learner-centred AMR resources. Crowdsourcing is the process of having a large group, including experts and non-experts, solve a problem and then share solutions with the public.

Methods

We organised a global crowdsourcing contest soliciting AMR-related multiple-choice questions, infographics, and images. First, we convened a diverse steering committee group to finalise a call for entries. Second, we launched the contest and disseminated the call for entries using social media, blog posts, email, and an in-person event. Partner institutions included two digital healthcare platforms: Figure 1® and Ding Xiang Yuan. Both organizations serve as online communities for healthcare specialists and professionals to report and comment on clinical information. At the end of the call, solicited entries were screened for eligibility and judged on merit and relevance to AMR learning and education. Exceptional entries were recognised, awarded prizes, and further reviewed for sharing with the public via open-access platforms.

Results

We received 59 entries from nine countries. These included 54 multiple-choice questions, four infographics, and one image. Eligible entries (n = 56) were reviewed and assigned a score on a 1–10 scale. Eight entries received mean scores greater than 6.0 and were selected as finalists. The eight finalist entries consisted of three infographics and five multiple-choice questions. They were disseminated through open-access publications and online medical communities. Although we launched a global call, we relied heavily on medical student groups and the entries received were not entirely globally representative.

Conclusions

We demonstrate that crowdsourcing challenge contests can be used to identify infectious disease teaching materials. Medical educators and curriculum developers can adapt this method to solicit additional teaching content for medical students.

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Background

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global health problem. Antimicrobial stewardship programmes are increasingly designed to enhance and expand medical school infectious disease curricula [1,2,3]. Educational interventions have been shown to improve antimicrobial use and practices [4, 5]. Educational antimicrobial stewardship can be beneficial to clinicians in high and low-income settings to increase their understanding of AMR. Studies from the United States and Europe suggest gaps in medical student exposure to appropriate antimicrobial prescribing practices and AMR [6, 7]. In addition, separate surveys in the Congo and Ethiopia suggest poor levels of AMR understanding among healthcare providers and students [8, 9]. Other studies from the United Kingdom and Belgium also demonstrate that there are inconsistencies between antibiotic prescribing guidelines and clinician practices [9, 10]. To address AMR, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests implementing more vigorous educational models and training for healthcare providers [11]. In response, we sought to identify medical education resources on AMR using crowdsourcing methods. Crowdsourcing has a large group, including experts and non-experts, solve a problem and then share solutions with the public [12]. In the past, crowdsourcing has been used to expand existing medical curricula and develop flashcard study tools for preclinical education [13,14,15]. Additionally, researchers have successfully crowdsourced challenging, high quality, and complex multiple-choice questions (MCQs) from medical students [16].

There are several reasons why crowdsourcing is an effective approach to address medical education development and AMR. First, medical curricula development can be an arduous process for medical educators [17]. Crowdsourcing provides a structured mechanism to involve a large number of individuals in the process of curriculum development [17].

Second, crowdsourcing contests allow organizers to engage community members and raise public awareness [12]. Many groups have suggested that AMR public awareness and public engagement are crucial [18,19,20]. Third, crowdsourcing draws on open science principles that are increasingly important within medical training and research. Fourth, crowdsourcing can engage junior physicians and build out a pipeline of people interested in medical education.

The purpose of this study was to describe a crowdsourcing contest soliciting AMR infographics, MCQs, and images for medical teaching. We solicited MCQ and infographic submissions because 1) MCQs are preferred by some students as study tools, and 2) surveys among healthcare providers suggest a preference for communicating clinical information through infographics in comparison to conventional text reports [16, 21]. Medical educators and curriculum developers can adopt this method in the future to create AMR-focused learning materials for educational and antimicrobial stewardship efforts.

Methods

The crowdsourcing contest design was based on the framework provided by the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) Practical Guide on Crowdsourcing in Health and Health Research [12]. The WHO framework provides a systematic approach to crowdsourcing within health contexts. Although this framework focuses on the application of crowdsourcing in public health settings more broadly, we specifically sought to assess its use in the area of medical education and training. According to the WHO model, crowdsourcing has six steps: selecting crowdsourcing as the methodology, convening a steering committee, engaging communities to participate, receiving and judging contributions, recognising finalists, and sharing solutions (Table 1).

Table 1 Stages employed in the contest

The open challenge contest

The International Diagnostics Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and SESH (Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health) organised this contest. The contest was officially launched in April 2019, and the call was open for two months. An open call for entries was provided on a contest website and promoted using the online medical learning platforms and other social media channels. We collaborated with two digital healthcare platforms in order to disseminate contest promotional materials: Figure 1® and Ding Xiang Yuan. Figure 1® is a Toronto-based digital platform that allows health professionals to share and comment on clinical cases [22]. Similarly, Ding Xiang Yuan is a Chinese digital platform that allows physicians to share medical information [23]. We selected these platforms for two reasons. First, the platforms allowed us to promote the contest in multiple languages (English and Chinese) and access potential participants in various geographical locations. Second, both platforms are specifically tailored for and used by clinicians and healthcare providers, which works well for our challenge contest as we sought to engage these particular groups to participate and send entries. After the open call was closed, all submitted entries were first screened for eligibility. Eligible entries were evaluated by three clinical experts who were identified by the steering committee and agreed to serve as contest judges. Each of the three clinical experts assigned entries a single score between 1 and 10 (with 1 denoting the weakest case, and 10 denoting exceptional submissions). The three scores were then averaged to determine a final single score for each entry. Eight entries that achieved a mean final score of 6.0 or greater emerged as finalists and were awarded a total of 1000 USD in gift cards. We selected 6.0 as a predetermined cut-off value to identify finalists as we deemed entries with an average score of ≥ 6.0 to be of relatively high quality and value. After revising entries, the MCQs were arranged into a slide deck similar to an AMR learning module developed through a challenge contest [24]. The finalist infographics were published as posters on F1000Research, a life sciences-focused digital publishing platform [25,26,27]. We asked participants to specify the AMR learning objective(s) (Table 2) that their entry addressed. Consensus on prioritizing AMR learning objectives were developed through a modified Delphi survey with stakeholders in AMR [28]. The Delphi survey was conducted amongst attendees in a one day AMR symposium that held in London, United Kingdom. These learning objectives also overlap with the Strategic Objectives outlined by the WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance [29]. The contest was organised in line with terms and conditions as specified by the legal committee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). As part of the conditions of the contest, participants were required to obtain informed consent from subjects where any personal data was included in the entry. Ethics approval was deemed unnecessary by the institutional review board at LSHTM.

Table 2 AMR learning objectives

Results

We received 59 entries with 56 eligible entries that came from nine countries: Cameroon (n = 30), the United States (n = 10), Nigeria (n = 5), the United Kingdom (n = 3), Australia (n = 3), Jordan (n = 2), Singapore (n = 1), India (n = 1), and China (n = 1). Of the 56 eligible entries, there were 51 MCQs, four infographics, and one image. Of the 56 eligible entries, 54 were solicited through the official contest website, and two were solicited through the online learning platforms.

The average score of all entries (n = 56) was 4.84. Breakdown of final scores by entry type shows that infographics (n = 4) had an average score of 7.00, images (n = 1) had an average score of 5.00, and MCQs (n = 51) had an average score of 4.67.

Finalist entries centred on a wide range of topics in AMR education and research. MCQs selected as finalists focused primarily on AMR background information and prevention/treatment. Topics included effective infection control in health institutions, multi-drug resistant organisms, antibiotic usage in animal farming, antibiotic treatment options in response to persistent symptoms, and mechanisms of AMR. Participants also identified veterinary practitioners and farmers as a target audience due to the increasing prevalence of antibiotics in agriculture practices and raising livestock [23]. The finalist infographics addressed AMR background information, treatment, and diagnosis. Finalist submissions are included in Additional file 1.

Discussion

We have demonstrated that crowdsourcing methods can be used to identify open-access medical education materials on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Our findings support existing literature demonstrating that crowdsourcing is a feasible method to develop educational resources in the medical and public health fields. [13, 15, 16] This challenge contest is a unique example of how to implement crowdsourcing methods to create medical education curricula specifically for the purposes of enhancing antimicrobial stewardship efforts.

This study draws on insights and examples from different settings. The contest was global in scope, as we received 56 eligible entries from nine different countries across five continents. We were able to solicit entries from both high-income and low-income countries, as well as entries from different practice areas, such as human medicine, veterinary medicine, and hospital- and community-based medicine. In addition, we were able to identify relevant online platforms to support contest implementation. The use of online platforms facilitated broad dissemination to an international audience and spurred engagement surrounding AMR and antibiotic prescribing practices. The inclusion of several social media metrics in our study also offers key insight into the use of digital platforms in crowdsourcing challenge contests and can guide future contest-organisers who wish to interact with online platforms for contest organisation and promotion.

This challenge contest received high-quality submissions, consistent with other crowdsourcing studies [30]. In our contest, eight entries (representing 14% of all submissions) achieved a mean score of 6.0 or greater, which was similar to the frequency of high-quality submissions in another global health innovation contest on Hepatitis B and C [30]. In terms of entry dissemination, three infographics were identified for online publication through F1000Research, nine MCQs were shared through the online learning platforms and 22 MCQs were selected for inclusion in a study slide deck on AMR. 25 out of 56 eligible entries (representing 43% of the submissions) were selected for dissemination, which was slightly higher than the dissemination frequency from other challenge contests [30, 31].

Crowdsourcing has several advantages. First, through contest promotion, we were able to spur creativity and awareness surrounding AMR and acquired a diverse and global range of ideas. Soliciting MCQs, infographics, and images on AMR from medical students, physicians, and other healthcare professionals in multiple countries suggests that crowdsourcing is also feasible across different settings. Second, medical curricula development can be a time-consuming and challenging task for a small number of individuals [13, 17]. We demonstrate that a bottom-up crowdsourcing approach can be a cost-effective method to develop medical teaching materials rapidly, decreasing the potential burden on educators and curriculum developers. This suggests that similar to other studies, crowdsourced materials from both experts and non-experts can be used in medical education [14, 15, 32]. Consistent with existing literature, our crowdsourcing approach involved coordinating with finalists in order to edit and refine submissions [13]. An important aspect of crowdsourcing is the process of having experts and non-experts work collaboratively in order to arrive at a final solution. Although the process of editing submissions can be more time-consuming, it also has some intrinsic value in terms of spurring engagement and participation across a wide continuum of stakeholders and participants. Future research should investigate methods to further optimize and streamline the process of developing medical education content through crowdsourcing.

Although many people viewed the contest promotion announcements on online platforms, we received few submissions from them: only two entries were submitted through the online platforms. This data suggests that paid online platforms to promote participation in challenge contests may be less effective, indicating a need for additional crowdsourcing interventions studying the use of paid online platforms. Given that in-person promotion of challenge contests has been associated with a greater volume of entries, more attention to in-person activities may also be useful for promotion [33, 34].

Our study has implications for research and policy surrounding medical education and curriculum development. While our study shows how crowdsourcing is an effective strategy to develop additional study resources in medical education, there is a need for more research to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of these educational resources. Robust programmes are essential in evaluating the extent to which the use of medical education stewardship approaches translate into improvements in clinical practice and understanding. There is also a need to review current curricula on AMR to identify content gaps and inform future projects.

Our contest had some limitations. First, we heavily targeted medical student groups. However, the timing of the call for entries overlapped with the examination calendar of many medical and public health schools, while others were already on break. Second, our participation may have been limited as we only promoted the contest at one in-person AMR event. Third, although our contest was global in scope, our entries were not entirely representative of all global settings, as there were no entries from the Latin American region. Fourth, entries accepted through the online learning platforms were limited to those in the English language and Chinese (Ding Xiang Yuan). This may have affected participation from non-English and non-Chinese speaking countries. Also, due to the small sample size, future studies and data are needed to establish crowdsourcing as an approach to address medical education and AMR training.

Conclusions

This study enhances our understanding of crowdsourcing in the context of medical education. Our contest demonstrates that crowdsourcing can be used to increase study materials available for medical students and physicians. Clinical educators could consider adopting crowdsourcing approaches to enhance medical education and mitigate traditional barriers associated with curriculum development. There is a need for additional research testing the impact and efficacy of crowdsourced clinical training resources for students and practitioners.

Availability of data and materials

Additional data collected from entries are available in additional files.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank SESH (Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health) for creating and hosting the contest website, and the online platforms (Figure 1® and Ding Xiang Yuan) for providing support in promoting the open call for entries. We also thank members of the steering committee for providing guidance at all stages of the contest and all the judges who volunteered to review submissions.

Funding

This project was supported by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Newton Fund (Grant Number NIF\R1\181020).

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Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

JDT conceived the study design with input from JZB, CCC, and EEK. RJ, DW and NF facilitated promotion of the call. JZB, CCC, and JJO reviewed finalist entries. EEK and RJ prepared the results and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eneyi E. Kpokiri.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable. The institutional review board at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine deemed this work a non-human subject research and ethics was not necessary. All participants in the open call completed an informed consent statement at the point of submitting the entries.

Consent for publication

Not applicable. Where patients’ medical records were used, informed consent was obtained by participants prior to submission and all identifying information has been removed.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Supplementary Information

Additional file 1.

Additional figures and tables.

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Kpokiri, E.E., John, R., Wu, D. et al. Crowdsourcing to develop open-access learning resources on antimicrobial resistance. BMC Infect Dis 21, 914 (2021). https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.1186/s12879-021-06628-0

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Keywords

  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Infectious diseases
  • Antimicrobial stewardship
  • Medical education
  • Curriculum development
  • Crowdsourcing