Self-study from Web-Based and Printed Guideline Materials

A Randomized, Controlled Trial Among Resident Physicians

Published in: Annals of Internal Medicine, v. 132, no. 12, June 2000, p. 938-946

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Douglas S. Bell, Gregg C. Fonarow, Ron D. Hays, Carol Mangione

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BACKGROUND: On-line physician education is increasing, but its efficacy in comparison with existing self-study methods is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To compare knowledge, learning efficiency, and learner satisfaction produced by self-study of World Wide Web-based and print-based guidelines for care after acute myocardial infarction. DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trial. SETTING. 12 family medicine and internal medicine residency programs at four universities. PARTICIPANTS: 162 residents. INTERVENTIONS: In proctored sessions, participants were randomly assigned to study from printed materials or from SAGE (Self-Study Acceleration with Graphic Evidence), a Web-based tutorial system. Both methods used identical self-assessment questions and answers and guideline text, but SAGE featured hyperlinks to specific guideline passages and graphic evidence animations. MEASURERMENTS: Scores on multiple-choice knowledge tests, score gain per unit of study time, and ratings on a learner satisfaction scale. RESULTS: Immediate post-test scores on a 20-point scale were similar in the SAGE and control groups (median score, 15.0 compared with 14.5; P > 0.2), but SAGE users spent less time studying (median, 27.0 compared with 38.5 minutes; P < 0.001) and therefore had greater learning efficiency (median score gain, 8.6 compared with 6.7 points per hour, P = 0.04). On a scale of 5 to 20, SAGE users were more satisfied with learning (median rating, 17.0 compared with 15.0; P < 0.001). After 4 to 6 months, knowledge had decreased to the same extent in the SAGE and control groups (median score, 12.0 compared with 11.0; P = 0.12). CONCLUSIONS: On-line tutorials may produce greater learning efficiency and satisfaction than print materials do, but one self-study exposure may be insufficient for long-term knowledge retention. Further research is needed to identify instructional features that motivate greater final learning and retention.

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