Rethinking Healthcare Professions Curricula in a Open Knowledge frame

For the past few years I’ve been busy rethinking the way healthcare is delivered to patients and how health communication and prevention are being constructed as information for the benefit of the public. Being an adjunct professor lecturing Sociology of health at the University of Parma I have a good starting point - not exactly a healthcare expert person, but a sociologist with a huge passion for e-learning and innovation in education, working on the change from within.

My idea is that the change should take place in the training and education sphere about how professionals and practitioners become such. Innovation and openness of knowledge must become the cutting edge paradigm within universities, hospitals and healthcare policies.

I’ve been granted research scholarships for the past years and I use them to bring change in two main areas of education: technologies and practices of innovation. It’s about bringing these two aspects, also existing in collaborative economies, communities, in hacker groups and activists promoting open access to knowledge, data and technology to stubborn, hermetic ecosystems of higher education.

My current project, a weblab named Puntozero (, explores the ways in which teachers, professors, tutors and students -used to the traditional model of lecturing a class and equipping people with theoretical knowledge and in-field training- might integrate in a community of practice to innovate the way of learning. This year there are about 150 students involved. The brainstorming about proposals include more talking to the patients, who want to collaborate and surely want to see medicine more friendly, more efficient, more human. It is important to change the way we see health care - not as a prestigious, restricted profession for a selected group of professional, but as a practice that has been there for thousands of years, a huge amount of collective wisdom that pioneered and support what we call medicine and care right now.

It’s fascinating to play with the idea of a healthcare student classroom where, instead of feeding people with theories, teachers would create space where students meet makers of all sorts and discuss various technological innovations with them, and spend time with their patients, getting hands on experience in various cases. By encouraging sharing of data, more interdisciplinary collaboration, creativity and networking educational institutions could create a new breed of health professionals. Their work style would be more inclusive and horizontal, and they would be more interested in critical thinking and discussion, sharing and transparency.

At the moment I’m working with a couple of small innovations that could lead to improved communication between health professionals and patients. One of them is about involving three trainees in archiving and developing a set of health-related caremojis, accessible in a open, less formal exchange, a tool improving communication and adoption of symbols to represent concepts of concern (e.g.: surgery tools, health conditions, symptoms, etc…). They will be soon ready to be used and evaluated by the students.

Another one is to replace yearly reports from traineeship by an online book, accessible to everyone and encouraging discussion. And it actually did. While i was working as professor I also skipped preparing tests and asked each pupil to come up with one multiple choice question, and out of 150 of them, were chosen random 20 questions set that became the test I made an exam. It was a very democratic, surprising step for students. I tend to be also available online for my students as much as possibile and I put a lot of stress on digital learning and Open Educational Resources (OER) - to save paper, to spare their pockets, to promote more openness, to bring more p2p learning. Finally, I try to skip the usage of huge, expensive books in the classrooms - instead, I look for good, open source materials, and if they’re in English, I ask my students to translate one page each and put it up in Italian as a wiki, available to everyone. There are all these ways in which students are forced to meet and talk, an essential practice, widely absent in the formal education.

I’m interested in joining the OPENandchange with the mission of tweaking and/or revolutionizing the classroom and the health care education and training. I want to create more opportunities for students to meet people who change the way care is given in different ways - by making devices, by creating informal institutions, in fablabs and elderly houses. I want to prepare workshops where makers and patients would be working along the health care providers on new solutions. And I want to empower alternative ways of giving care, outside of the formal profession, initiatives driven by values other than money - by the idea of being helpful, virtue of serving each other, and actual engagement.

Therefore i would like to engage other scholars, makers, educators, archivists, patients and who else inspired by an open paradigm of healthcare in contributing to a p2p learning project to advance healthcare professions curricula and innovate where possibile and to open knowledge filed the higher education for healthcare professions. Please add your comment to participate.


Very interesting, @Federico_Monaco . I guess communities of care start in (medical) school! If people – especially care professionals – are trained to think in that way, they can have more of a positive influence in getting a community going. When I say “a community”, I think of responsibility: a community of care happens when people take at least some responsibility for caring for each other.

You forgot to include a link to Puntozero in your post.It would be nice to know who else is involved, how many students you have taught etc.


Thanks @Alberto.

I have just added the link to and the number of students involved (about 150 this year).

While seems easier to involve patients, patrons and makers in open discussion about innovation and shared practices, the world of education and professionals themselves should undergo a rethinking towards wide collaboration and practicing in communities in the fast changing, seamless and heterogenous world we all live in.

Very interesting!

I’m very interested in what you’re describing. I know a couple of people in the med field, but have a different background (materials) myself. Usually I can also bring something to the table though.

Off the cuff a couple of pointers that you might find interesting:

  • Medical experience / learning in war and peace are somewhat different (perhaps you can borrow approaches as is convenient)

  • Over time (and hierarchy levels) there is also quite a shift in approach to matters (look up e.g. Florence Nightingale or Ignaz Semmelweis)

  • I think there is a lot in the medical field which is extremely bad to codify in(to) written language but can be learned face to face. I would think a “social network of people who went through your problems” would be useful particularly in regard to doctor-patient info responsibilities (the doctor is pressed for time and may not be able to relate to a patients situation as well as a “veteran” from the network).


I got excited reading your piece @Federico Monaco! Your approach to learning and willingness to experiment is exactly what the educational system needs right now. This sums it up quite well for me: “By encouraging sharing of data, more interdisciplinary collaboration, creativity and networking educational institutions could create a new breed of health professionals.”. @trythis has some interesting points of inspiration as well…

Are there any particular sources of inspiration you use to come up with new ways of teaching? Have your experiments ever backfired?


Really encouraging to read this, Frederico. I am involved in an emerging group (we call it Caring for Life) looking to acquire care homes in the UK and start to liberate the staff and transform the way care is given. Like you, we are inspired by an open paradigm of care giving, as well as stories of self-managing organisations such as Buurtzorg. It is early days yet but when we have got a bit further, it would be good to hear more about your work and  approach.

Thanks to all of you for the fruitful comments

I apologise for not replying immediately to your comments. You are all giving a double feedback: a) it’s an emergent issue the re-working of professions given the BIG changes in the fields of knowledge and sharing at large: b) your comments are of inspiration in developing a wider and/but keen strategy.

Yes, there are some first outcomes:

a) the open infrastructure was presented at EMEMITALIAthe national congress on e-Learning that in Modena on september 6th

b) next academic year will probably include 7 Master instead of 5 in a open infrastructure and tutors will be trained by a “open” approach;

c) least but not last, three trainees (all nurses) are collaborating online to create emojis on healthcare, diagnosis and surgery issues. More to come… Seen your interest it might be useful to share some thoughts and network a bit on such perspective together in a videoconference perhaps…