One of our first and most daunting tasks was deciding what elements should go into Gunner Training. This was an area where our prior website experience really came into play. We knew that web browsers are a terrible place to read textbooks and scholarly articles: computer monitors are simply oriented the wrong way for that. Instead, we chose to create virtual flashcards.
The flashcards had to be 1) easy to read and 2) highly interactive. We hired a graphic designer to design our flashcards. There’s a lot that goes into this: font selection, font spacing (aka tracking and kerning), column widths, line spacing, etc. As for the interactivity, we went with drop-down bullet points that would force our users into active learning states even after hours of study. We hadn’t seen any other medical education websites use this format, and were particularly gratified when our alpha users gave it the two thumbs up. We also made a firm decision to limit our bullet points to a depth of two, thereby ensuring that we were teaching the information in the most “digestible” format.
One of the great things about publishing material online is that images are easy to include. We decided to include images on as many of our flashcards as possible. There were 2 reasons for this: 1) the USMLE exams are including more and more images in the exam, and 2) pretty pictures keep us engaged.
Beyond the flashcards, we needed to choose the elements of our Spaced Learning review. Because the power of the Spaced Learning approach comes from knowing the material, rather than learning just for a test, we knew that open-ended questions would be more difficult but also more effective. And yet, a test preparation website that didn’t have multiple choice questions would be incomplete. Given these constraints, we decided to include both, even though the programming would become exponentially more difficult.
With the elements in place, the long process of creating all of GT’s content began in earnest.