Purpose: This study is an assessment of the acceptability and short-term educational efficacy of interactive spaced education compared to web based teaching cases within the compact time frame of a clinical clerkship.
Materials and methods: All 237 third-year students completing their 3-month surgery clerkships at 2 medical schools were asked to complete a urology online-education program covering 4 core topics of benign prostatic hyperplasia, erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer and screening with prostate specific antigen. Students were stratified by clinical site and randomized to 1 of 2 cohorts. Students in cohort A received interactive spaced education on prostate cancer/prostate specific antigen and web based teaching on benign prostatic hyperplasia/erectile dysfunction. Students in cohort B received interactive spaced education on benign prostatic hyperplasia/erectile dysfunction and web based teaching on prostate cancer/prostate specific antigen. A validated 28-item test on all 4 topics was administered at the end of the 10-week program.
Results: No statistically significant differences in end-of-program test scores were observed between cohorts in the topics of prostate cancer/prostate specific antigen with 87.6% (SD 12.9) for cohort A (interactive spaced education) and 82.4% (SD 19.6) for cohort B (web based teaching) (p = 0.25). Similarly there was also no statistically significant difference in test scores in the topics of benign prostatic hyperplasia/erectile dysfunction with 79.5% (SD 15.9) for cohort A (web based teaching) and 82.1% (SD 14.7) for cohort B (interactive spaced education, p = 0.28). When students were asked which format they would prefer if they were to receive all their urology online education in a single format, 55% of students (109 of 198 respondents) preferred interactive spaced education while 45% (89 of 109) preferred web based teaching (p = 0.16).
Conclusions: Within the compact time frame of a clinical clerkship interactive spaced education is equivalent to web based teaching in short-term learning gains and in acceptability by medical students.