Surgical e-learning: validation of multimedia web-based lectures

Paul F Ridgway, Athar Sheikh, Karl J Sweeney, Denis Evoy, Enda McDermott, Patrick Felle, Arnold D Hill, Niall J O'Higgins
Medical Education 2007, 41 (2): 168-72

BACKGROUND: Distance learning has been advocated increasingly as a modern efficient method of teaching surgery. Efficiency of knowledge transfer and validity of web-based courses have not been subjected to rigorous study to date.

METHODS: An entirely web-based surgical 5-week lecture course was designed. Fifty per cent of the lectures were prepared as HTML slides with voice-over while the other group was presented in the text-only form. Only written material presented was examined. The lectures were presented via an educational web module. The lecture series was balanced specifically to reduce the pre-existent knowledge bias. Web usage was estimated utilising surrogates, including the number of hits as well as log-on timing. Face validity was assessed by a standardised questionnaire.

RESULTS: Eighty-eight students took part in the lecture series and subsequent examination and questionnaire. Median multiple choice questionnaire (MCQ) marks were significantly higher in the aural lecture-derived stems versus the non-aural (P = 0.012, Mann-Whitney U-test). There was widespread approval of web-based learning as an adjunct to conventional teaching. Usage rates were augmented significantly in the final week when compared to the previous 4 weeks (mean total hits weeks 1-4 +/- SEM: 100.9 +/- 9.7 and mean total hits week 5: 152.1 +/- 13.1; P < 0.001, Kruskal-Wallis). However, total hits did not correlate with overall examination results (r(2) = 0.16). The aural lectures demonstrated higher face validity than the non-aural for content and presentation (P < 0.05, Kruskal-Wallis).

CONCLUSIONS: The addition of aural files to the novel web-based lecture series is face valid and results in significantly increased examination performance.

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