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PeerJ. 2016 Aug 11;4:e2343. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2343. eCollection 2016.

Delivering a medical school elective with massive open online course (MOOC) technology.

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Internal Medicine, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine , Springfield, IL , USA.



The educational technology of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has been successfully applied in a wide variety of disciplines and are an intense focus of educational research at this time. Educators are now looking to MOOC technology as a means to improve professional medical education, but very little is known about how medical MOOCs compare with traditional content delivery.


A retrospective analysis of the course evaluations for the Medicine as a Business elective by fourth-year medical students at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU-SOM) for the 2012-2015 academic years was conducted. This course was delivered by small group flipped classroom discussions for 2012-2014 and delivered via MOOC technology in 2015. Learner ratings were compared between the two course delivery methods using routinely collected course evaluations.


Course enrollment has ranged from 6-19 students per year in the 2012-2015 academic years. Student evaluations of the course are favorable in the areas of effective teaching, accurate course objectives, meeting personal learning objectives, recommending the course to other students, and overall when rated on a 5-point Likert scale. The majority of all student ratings (76-95%) of this elective course are for the highest possible choice (Strongly agree or Excellent) for any criteria, regardless if the course was delivered via a traditional or MOOC format. Statistical analysis of these ratings suggests that the Effective Teacher and Overall Evaluations did not statistically differ between the two delivery formats.


Student ratings of this elective course were highly similar when delivered in a flipped classroom format or by using MOOC technology. The primary advantage of this new course format is flexibility of time and place for learners, allowing them to complete the course objectives when convenient for them. The course evaluations suggest this is a change that is acceptable to the target audience.


This study suggests that learner evaluations of a fourth-year medical school elective course do not significantly differ when delivered by flipped classroom group discussions or via MOOC technology in a very small single center observational study. Further investigation is required to determine if this delivery method is an acceptable and effective means of teaching in the medical school environment.


Business; MOOC; Medical education; Medical school elective

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