The AAOS was founded on the need to provide education for orthopaedic surgeons. Our organization has a serious, sustained commitment to orthopaedic education that is reflected in many ways. The Academy is consistently seen as a trusted source for information, with content that meets the “gold standards” of accuracy, reliability, and peer-review.


Published 8/1/2014
Frederick M. Azar, MD

The Premier Resource for Orthopaedic Learning

Think about it. In a typical day, we seek orthopaedic information either because we “need” it or because we “want” it. We “need” information for a patient with a complicated diagnosis in clinic, for the next patient in surgery, for the Orthopaedic In-Training Exam, for our Boards, or for Maintenance of Certification. We “want” information for lifelong learning, which is a fundamental tenant of our profession.

Recently, the AAOS adopted new mission and vision statements, supported by a comprehensive strategic plan called “Vision 20/20.” With the mission of “serving our profession to provide the highest quality musculoskeletal care,” our Academy aims to be “the premier resource for orthopaedic learning.”

But how people learn—and how faculty teach—are changing. Technology has moved education far from the days of rote multiplication tables and mnemonic tricks (although many of these are still helpful). As both the parent of two teens and a former residency program director, I can see first-hand how much educational methods and preferences have evolved. Blackboard and chalk have been replaced by iPads and styli.

As a result, the AAOS is taking steps to update our education and publishing programs to meet the challenges posed by these shifts in learning styles and expectations. Gone are the days when our organization simply developed “products.” We are now in the business of developing “content.” At a Board workshop last December, the need to tie content planning and development to a program-wide content development plan and product portfolio was recognized. Such a program-wide plan would be based on a needs assessment and a gap analysis.

This portfolio approach would incorporate a competency model based on skill/knowledge, performance, and patient outcomes. In addition, content would be packaged in different ways and geared to specific target audiences, such as specialists, generalists with a specialty focus, residents, young practitioners, and patients.

What does all this mean to you? First of all, it means that you will be able to customize and individualize a learning portfolio geared to your particular learning needs and wants. That should lead to a better learning experience.

At a recent Council on Education meeting, for example, Council members tied current AAOS products and services to the orthopaedic career “ladder.” Although the AAOS has many texts, videos, and courses geared to fellows, our offerings for residents and for orthopaedists who are no longer performing surgery were pretty sparse.

This has long-term implications for the AAOS, particularly with regard to engaging younger members and residents. The education department has made 2014 “the year of the resident,” and has focused many of its 2014 market research initiatives on understanding their needs, preferences, and challenges.

Early reports show that residents recognize the value and quality of the Academy’s offerings, but also indicate that they are frequently frustrated by efforts to access content on the AAOS website. And oh, by the way, they want it for free! As a result, they turn to competitive websites that provide free, easily accessible content. That, too, is something the AAOS is addressing.

The role of technology
We can now divide those who seek education from the AAOS into two categories: those who are “digital natives” and those who are “digital immigrants.” Most educators, like myself, are not digital natives and may be both frustrated and amazed at the attitudes and approaches of our young charges, for whom digital is second nature and online information must be quick, slick, and with few clicks!

In today’s world, educational content must be envisioned in digital terms. Digital natives demand robust search engines, easy navigation, and targeted information. According to them, “You should be able to get to anything on the web in three clicks or less.”

In addition, the information must be formatted for easy viewing, whether it is on a computer monitor, tablet, or phone. Portable devices such as these will be the “libraries” or “peripheral brains” of younger members. Interactive books may include videos, pop-up definitions, test questions, and enhanced content. Who needs bookshelves stocked with volumes of dense text (although, aside from the dust, I like the way they make me feel in my study at home) when you can carry hundreds of books, videos, and other resources in a slim tablet? As one resident noted, “I never carry a book; it’s not necessary. It’s all available online.”

Interactivity is another key aspect of online education. Learners want to be engaged, to receive feedback, and to participate by asking questions. Digital learning should not be one-sided, but should enable students to learn from each other as well as from the instructor.

In last month’s AAOS Now, you heard about plans to redesign the AAOS website. The new website will have role-based landing pages, geared specifically for residents, medical students, fellows, and others. Information of interest to these audiences will be readily available. If you have ideas for the website—what you would like to see or how you would like to use it—I encourage you to contact AAOS Chief Technology Officer Bill Bruce at

Making the good better
It is important to note that we are not throwing out our current successful programs—the Annual Meeting, books, or courses—but we will be packaging the core content differently. This will provide a better experience when members and other constituents interact with the Academy.

In addition, the AAOS will be exploring ways to develop programs using formal education methodologies and to provide support for faculty development, acknowledging the differing generational styles and learning technologies. We are looking for ways to better “train our trainers”—those who instruct, write, or edit our content.

The AAOS is committed to finding ways to work with specialty societies in developing innovative content for electronic education. We must all find ways to address the issues of free content from competitive websites and coordination of content development and delivery. We can certainly leverage our reputation for peer-reviewed, unbiased information.

Essentially, implementation of this education strategy is aimed at making the AAOS more nimble and responsive to both members and other musculoskeletal stakeholders. With this plan, our high-quality content can be taken apart and redesigned for a new delivery mode or audience. It will enable us to constantly assess the needs of our audiences and to respond with an appropriate instructional or informational solution.

So whether you “need” information or “want” it, the AAOS aims to be your premier resource for orthopaedic learning.