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Why Don’t We Give the Answers Up-Front?

Kathy King Uncategorized

A week ago, a dietitian called and asked, “Do you send me the answers when you send the course?” She was just curious and others have asked as well. Over the past years, we have evolved on how we do our exams, but we still don’t give out answers or certificates before the course has been completed. These are open-book exams worth considerable CE hours based upon what the reviewers believe it will take the average reader to read the book and answer the questions. I believe that our customers and credentialing organizations (CDR, NCBDE, and the California Board of Registered Nursing) expect us to maintain high standards and not shortcut the process.

We do send you the correct answers after your paper tests are submitted and we just changed the online test to show which questions you missed after you pass the online test. We want you to learn even more by checking your answers—to continue the learning process.

We believe most dietitians and other professionals want to learn and retain content from their continuing education efforts. The best way to do that is to spend time with the topic—that’s why we write longer courses based on good books with research or case study formats.

More than 20 years ago at an Academy Future Education conference, I heard wonderful speakers that I’ve never forgotten. They said,

  • You will have the greatest breadth of dietetic expertise five years after graduation. That is the time when you have current knowledge learned in your college and internship plus five years of practical application to test and refine what works in nutrition practice.
  • After 5 years, practitioners specialize more and more in the areas they love and/or those required by their jobs. Because of this, it would be harder and harder to pass the entry exam because they haven’t used that breadth of information in so long. However, that’s not a problem career-wise when you continue to build a reputation for excellence in your content area, improve your business skills, and nurture your network of colleagues.
  • An Emergency Care physician who spoke said that her education had a half-life of 18 months. That means that HALF of everything she was taught was out of date in 18 months! She asked Dr. Johanna Dwyer, RD, what she would estimate for dietitians, and I remember Dr. Dwyer saying something like, “I would estimate 3-4 years.” Half of what we know is out of date in 3-4 years! That’s why life-long learning on new nutrition research and emerging ideas, not just confirming what you already know, is so important in health care!!
  • Another speaker said, “You will learn more, retain it better, and more likely change how you practice, when you spend more time with a topic. Think of how much you remember after hearing twenty 60-minute presentations on a variety of topics at a conference versus studying one topic for twenty hours. The time spent and the depth of the information are very important for learning and retention.” Again, that’s why we offer longer courses.

We grade our online tests and require a 70% or higher to pass like most CE Providers because it would be too easy to buy the test, go online and guess without reading the book, and then submit it. To help maintain the credibility of the exam process and competency of the practitioner, most people would assume that we expect a passing grade for health care professionals.

In the selection process for a course, I will sometimes send a book to a practitioner whose opinion I trust or discuss it with a staff person at CDR. If we have already written a test and one or more reviewers says, “I’m not comfortable with this,” we totally re-evaluate whether to keep the course. Sometimes, we all feel a book has new content that needs to be shared in our profession even though we know parts are controversial. And, I will drop a course after new research dates the book or a better book comes out. This is a fluid process.

More and more, we are using good books suggested to us by colleagues who are impressed with the content and author or who have written a book that is suitable for continuing education. I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to share with us.

Wherever CE is going, we want to be there for you to help improve nutrition practice—one course at a time. Please keep in touch with us. We encourage feedback and comments in order to make our continuing education more interesting and responsive to your needs.


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