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ATD Blog

Adaptive Learning Solution for Time-Starved Professionals

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

NEJM Knowledge+ Improves Doctors’ Board Certification Pass Rate

Doctors are among the most time-pressured, highly educated professionals. After the rigors of medical school and residency, they take on demanding jobs while also preparing for board certification. Throughout their years in practice, doctors must engage in continuing education and lifelong learning to stay current with the latest research, advancements in medical science, and best practices in medicine. And throughout it all, time remains scarce.

To address this need, Area9 partnered with NEJM Group (a division of the Massachusetts Medical Society, publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine) to create a first-of-its-kind adaptive learning offering: NEJM Knowledge+. NEJM Knowledge+ was launched in 2014 as a highly efficient, effective way for physicians to prepare for board exams, pursue continuing medical education (CME) and maintenance of certification (MOC), and engage in lifelong learning. Based on the Area9 adaptive learning platform, this smart technology is able to adapt to clinicians’ goals and pace of learning while identifying their knowledge gaps to deliver the specific instruction needed.

The benefits of using NEJM Knowledge+ were illustrated in a recent study conducted by researchers affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, and NEJM Group. The study found that, among NEJM Knowledge+ users in the United States (during 2014-2016), the passing rate on the American Board of Internal Medicine Certification Examination (ABIM-CE) on the first attempt was significantly higher than the national average (95 percent vs. 89 percent).

These gains in medical board certification exam success rates have earned accolades for NEJM Knowledge+: “Silver” in the 2018 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology awards (in the category of best advance in software for a training company) and “Bronze” at the 2018 Learning Technologies Awards in London (in the category of “Best Learning Technologies Project—Public and Nonprofit Sector”). NEJM Knowledge+ was acknowledged as having transformed continuing professional development for clinicians.

NEJM Knowledge+ continues to make in-roads in other areas of medical practice. In addition to internal medicine, the platform is used by physicians preparing for board certification in family medicine and pediatrics. NEJM Knowledge+ also has been adopted by two other medical partners: the American Association of Clinical Chemistry with the AACC Learning Lab and the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery with JBJS Clinical Classroom.


NEJM Knowledge+ uses research-proven methods to accelerate proficiency, continuously sharpen skills, and promote lifelong learning. It is a compelling example of how the effectiveness of learning and development (L&D) must be measured against specific goals, as well as its ability to meet the needs of all stakeholders and its impact as a learning solution.

Despite the advancements in L&D over the years, significant stumbling blocks remain: Traditional e-learning and classroom-based instruction are inefficient and do little to improve people’s competence to meet current and future demands. This is particularly problematic given the widespread need for better training across all industries to keep pace with the technology-enabled workplace and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation.

As technology and competitive pressure continue to evolve quickly, companies can’t afford ineffective and inefficient training that doesn’t produce the right return on investment. Against this backdrop, adaptive learning may be the key differentiator for L&D teams as employers seek to upgrade worker skills. Adaptive learning brings together the best of computer science and cognitive research, delivering a personalized, computer-based approach that adjusts to the needs of each learner in online and blended learning scenarios.


The key is personalization as adaptive learning platforms adjust to the needs of every learner, with a tutor-like approach. These advanced platforms use a “teaching-by-asking” approach that is inherently engaging. Learners spend time only on those areas in which they need development, while skipping over what they have already mastered, thus reducing the time it takes to reach proficiency. Time savings of as much as 50 percent compared to traditional e-learning or instructor-led training are common among early adopters of adaptive learning.

From time-pressured medical doctors preparing for board certification to the next generation of tech-enabled workers across multiple industries, professionals need efficient and effective training. This requires a proven, technology-enabled approach. Adaptive learning meets learners where they are and builds the competencies they need to carry out their duties and responsibilities successfully, with competence and confidence.

Curious to learn more? Please join me at ATD 2019 at session SU22EXS, “Personalized Learning Is Here. Don’t Get Left Behind” on Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m. in Room 158 or at session TU421, “Transforming Physician Education With Adaptive Learning” on Tuesday, May 21 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 140, where I will be co-presenting with Matthew O’Rourke from the NEJM Group.

About the Author

Nick J. Howe is the chief learning officer of Area9 Lyceum, the learning company of Danish-owned Area9 Group. Area9 Lyceum has launched its fourth-generation adaptive and personalized learning platform, Area9 Rhapsode.

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