Comparison of a web-based package with tutor-based methods of teaching respiratory medicine: subjective and objective evaluations

Susan F. Smith, Nicola J. Roberts, Martyn R. Partridge

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    Background: Respiratory disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality not only in the United Kingdom, but globally. A good understanding of respiratory disease and its treatment is
    essential for all medical graduates. As a result of changes in clinical practice, patients with some common respiratory illnesses are less often admitted to hospital, restricting the experience
    available to undergraduate students. Combined with a potential shortage of clinical teachers, this means that new methods of teaching need to be developed and appraised. The aim of this study was to establish whether a web-based package on the diagnosis of respiratory disease would be as effective and as acceptable to final year medical students as tutor-led methods of teaching the same material.
    Methods: 137 out of 315 final year undergraduate students in a single medical school volunteered to take part. Each received up to two hours of tutor-lead interactive, tutor-lead didactic or
    electronic, Web-based teaching on the accurate diagnosis and management of respiratory disease. Post teaching performance was assessed by multiple true/false questions and data interpretation exercises, whilst students' teaching preferences were assessed by questionnaire.
    Results: Despite a high knowledge baseline before the study, there was a small, but statistically significant increase in knowledge score after all forms of teaching. Similarly, data interpretation skills improved in all groups, irrespective of teaching format, Although paradoxically most students expressed a preference for interactive tutor-lead teaching, spirometry interpretation in those
    receiving web-based teaching improved significantly more [p = 0.041] than in those in the interactive group.
    Conclusion: Web-based teaching is at least as good as other teaching formats, but we need to overcome students' reluctance to engage with this teaching method.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages8
    JournalBMC Medical Education
    Issue number41
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


    • respiratory disease
    • teaching
    • web-based packages
    • evaluations


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