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Acad Med. 2012 Oct;87(10):1443-9.

An online spaced-education game to teach and assess medical students: a multi-institutional prospective trial.

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Surgical Service, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



To investigate whether a spaced-education (SE) game can be an effective means of teaching core content to medical students and a reliable and valid method of assessing their knowledge.


This nine-month trial (2008-2009) enrolled students from three U.S. medical schools. The SE game consisted of 100 validated multiple-choice questions-explanations in preclinical/clinical domains. Students were e-mailed two questions daily. Adaptive game mechanics re-sent questions in three or six weeks if answered, respectively, incorrectly or correctly. Questions expired if not answered on time (appointment dynamic). Students retired questions by answering each correctly twice consecutively (progression dynamic). Posting of relative performance fostered competition. Main outcome measures were baseline and completion scores.


Seven-hundred thirty-one students enrolled. Median baseline score was 53% (interquartile range [IQR] 16) and varied significantly by year (P<.001, dmax=2.08), school (P<.001, dmax=0.75), and gender (P<.001, d=0.38). Median completion score was 93% (IQR 12) and varied significantly by year (P=.001, dmax=1.12), school (P<.001, dmax=0.34), and age (P=.019, dmax=0.43). Scores did not differ significantly between years 3 and 4. Seventy percent of enrollees (513/731) requested to participate in future SE games.


An SE game is an effective and well-accepted means of teaching core content and a reliable and valid method to assess student knowledge. SE games may be valuable tools to identify and remediate students who could benefit from additional educational support.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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