Internet-Based Learining for Medical Education: Old Wine in New Bottles?

Internet-based learning

Internet based learning clearly has a substantial benefit on the knowledge of participants compared with no learning intervention. Higher interactivity, ongoing access to course material, online discussion, or the presence of practice exercise did not have a substantial influence on the benefit of Internet-based learning when compared with no intervention. The quality of the study did however. The better the study the lower the positive effect of the Internet-based learning.

Internet-based learning compared with non-Internet instructional methods are heterogeneous and generally small, suggesting effectiveness similar to traditional methods.

It was also not clear how variations in instructional design influenced the magnitude of benefit for Internet-based learning and in some cases it was found to be in the opposite direction to the a prior hypotheses.

Be aware
This review was not about non−Internet-based computer-assisted instruction.

So why do we use Internet-based learning for physicians?
We have to go with the times. The same reason why we don’t use coal anymore. We have better and cheaper alternatives.

More important is the question which method of Internet-based learning may be more effective than others and when should Internet-based learning be used? The inconsistencies in effect across study types suggest that some methods can be better than others or better in other stages of training.

Internet-based learning certainly has advantages: you can participate at a time and place convenient to you, it can facilitates instructional methods that might be difficult in other formats, and has the potential
to tailor instruction to individual learners’ needs. The effectiveness of Internet-based learning has been published extensively especially the last decade. The results presented here are from a large meta-analysis recently published in the JAMA: Internet-Based Learning in the Health Professions.

Two reviewers independently evaluated study quality and abstracted information including characteristics of learners, learning setting, and intervention (including level of interactivity, practice exercises, online discussion, and duration). There were 201 eligible studies.
D. A. Cook, A. J. Levinson, S. Garside, D. M. Dupras, P. J. Erwin, V. M. Montori (2008). Internet-Based Learning in the Health Professions: A Meta-analysis JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 300 (10), 1181-1196 DOI: 10.1001/jama.300.10.1181