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Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2010 Aug;15(3):349-56. doi: 10.1007/s10459-009-9201-3. Epub 2009 Sep 23.

Significant increase in factual knowledge with web-assisted problem-based learning as part of an undergraduate cardio-respiratory curriculum.

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  • 1Department of Cardiology and Pneumology, University Hospital Göttingen, Georg August University of Göttingen, University Clinic, Germany.


In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to web-based learning although the advantages of computer-aided instruction over traditional teaching formats still need to be confirmed. This study examined whether participation in an online module on the differential diagnosis of dyspnoea impacts on student performance in a multiple choice examination of factual knowledge in cardiology and pneumology. A virtual problem-based learning environment for medical students supervised by postgraduate teachers was created. Seventy-four out of 183 fourth-year medical students volunteered to use the online module while attending a 6-week cardio-respiratory curriculum in summer 2007. Of these, 40 were randomly selected to be included (intervention group); the remaining 34 served as an internal control group. Analysis of all written exams taken during the preceding term showed that both groups were comparable (86.4 ± 1.1 vs. 85.9 ± 1.1%; p = 0.751). Students in the intervention group scored significantly higher in the final course assessment than students allocated to the control group (84.8 ± 1.3 vs. 79.5 ± 1.4%; p = 0.006; effect size 0.67). Thus, additional problem-based learning with an online module as part of an undergraduate cardio-respiratory curriculum lead to higher students' scores in an exam testing factual knowledge. Whether using this teaching format increases overall student motivation to engage in the learning process needs to be further investigated.

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