Armen Varosyan, OLA subcommittee chairperson
It is my greatest pleasure to write about this great event in the history of anaesthesiology, and it is a special honour to be a part of it with my colleagues. This article is not a simple report of this year’s On-Line Assessment (OLA); it aims to bring to the attention of the reader this unprecedented achievement as a result of dedication and a global team effort. The 8th of April 2016 was a special day in the history of anaesthesiology education, as on that day the ESA organized and achieved the most extended successful computer-based On-Line Assessment in anaesthesiology ever. I am taking the liberty of claiming this event to be the biggest worldwide online assessment not only in anaesthesiology but in medicine in general, as I failed to find any published data in either scientific or journalist media presenting a bigger medical examination than OLA 2016 in any of its parameters. Anaesthesiology is the most versatile medical specialty, and like in many other fields of activity, we are proud of being pioneers and leaders in medical education and assessment as well.
Scale, size, and span of OLA 2016
A total of 1159 candidates simultaneously sat the OLA in 95 centres throughout the world, of which 80 were located in Europe and 15 outside of Europe, in 23 countries spanning 12 time zones. Usually we have new centres each year due to the expansion of OLA, and this year for the first time centres were opened in Brazil, Oman, and China, making the OLA a truly global examination assessing the knowledge of anaesthesiologists across the world. More than 150 senior anaesthesiologists were involved in the organisation of the OLA at local centres hosting and invigilating the exam. This time OLA was offered in 10 languages (listed in random order): English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Chinese, and Italian. This year for the first time, the Examinations Committee, after relevant discussions and debates, made a challenging decision to organize the OLA in the Chinese language, which was indeed a special challenge to organizers at different levels and stages of preparation. Finally, this initially-seeming-impossible mission was successfully completed due to the aspiration and common efforts of the ESA with invaluable support from the Chinese professional organizations and our Chinese colleagues who reviewed and edited all previously translated questions in Chinese.
Background of the OLA progress and present success
The idea to join the initiative of UEMS to organize an online assessment in the framework of the European Diploma in Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care belongs to the ESA current president and Examination Committee former chairperson Zeev Goldik, who successfully expanded the EDAIC to the worldwide level making it undoubtedly the most popular diploma in our specialty at present. The idea of OLA was popularized in 2010 when an announcement was advertised to create the OLA Subcommittee, which was consequently formed of highly qualified and dedicated members experienced in both examination management and computer technologies. The subcommittee later was enlarged along with the enormous expansion of OLA according to the language needs and countries adopting the OLA as an official assessment (Figure 1). The current achievement and triumphant expansion of OLA was determined by its initial success, which was a result of enthusiastic devotion of the first members of the OLA subcommittee, who created, reviewed, rejected, edited, and finally confirmed thousands of high quality questions in a limited period of time, enriching the question database of EDAIC examinations. In addition, this process was meticulously managed by the first OLA subcommittee chairperson, Sue Hill, whose extraordinary knowledge and professionalism in anaesthesiology, computers, and statistics were the key to OLA success and development.
The OLA is delivered in partnership between the ESA and the Swedish company Orzone, which provides e-learning and advanced simulation technology to support and facilitate clinical training and assessment worldwide. Orzone collaborates with many medical societies, and the ESA is happy to be one of the most important of its partners. Among different products, Orzone offers the ORTRAC Examination module specifically designed to deliver online examinations in the field of medicine; the only online tool validated by the UEMS and used for OLA.
On the very day of OLA
OLA started on 8 April at 11:00 and finished at 20:00 Central European Summer Time. Chronologically the exam started in Chinese centres and finished in Innsbruck (Austria); however, in the vast majority of centres the exam was held from 14:00 to 17:00. During the duration of the exam special technical support was provided both in the ESA headquarters in Brussels and in the Orzone office in Gothenburg, Sweden, with sufficient specialists able to handle all kinds of technical issues that might arise during the exam. I am delighted to pay tribute to all the support staff for professionally resolving all problems, ensuring the smooth run of such a large-scale exam.
This year Orzone introduced a new tool for live monitoring of ongoing exams within the ORTRAC platform, which was accessible by the exam administrators during the exam. This significant improvement enabled us to monitor the progress of the entire examination in all centres, simultaneously facilitating the solution of technical problems.
Special people deserving special appreciation
It is worth repeating that the OLA success is a result of a global team effort, as this year OLA was unprecedented in its scale and size, its organization encountered many challenges, and this landmark achievement would have been impossible without the efforts of our whole team. As a person actively involved in the organization of OLA 2016 I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the people involved in the organization of this event: ESA staff and examination team, OLA subcommittee members, translators, reviewers, Orzone specialists, local OLA hosts, and supervisors for their time and dedication to OLA’s development.
However, some special people deserve special thanks and gratitude.
Of course, first, special thanks go to the ESA president Zeev Goldik for this excellent idea and his strong belief in its success and optimism, which constantly guided us to the final success; Sue Hill, Examination Committee Chairperson, for her versatile support and especially for the help in making decisions in difficult situations, as well as for her time to monitor the exam in China; Stefan Park, Orzone CEO; and David Hedlund, Jens Larsson, and their colleagues at Orzone for elaborating this platform and their excellent professionalism in handling all problems and issues; Paolo Sa Rodrigues (OLA Subcommittee member) for his contribution to the OLA expansion in South America and his transatlantic mission to monitor the exam in Brazil; and my very special thanks to Murielle Piette, ESA Education Team Leader, with whom I had the fate of sharing all difficulties, obstacles, and challenges that we finally succeeded to overcome together.
OLA was initially designed to help young anaesthesiologists assess their level of knowledge and training. However, the objective is to move the EDAIC Part I Examination to the online platform after having solved important issues for a summate assessment, such as connectivity and security. The successful progress of OLA and collective experience ensure the achievement of this goal in the very near future.
The infinite energy and genuine dedication of our team inspires me to be convinced that all future On-Line Assessments will be distinctively a special day for our profession in the field of education. Please, save the next such date right now: April 7, 2017.
Figure 1. OLA expansion.