Online spaced education to teach urology to medical students: a multi-institutional randomized trial

Am J Surg. 2009 Jan;197(1):89-95. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2007.10.026. Epub 2008 Jul 9.


Background: We investigated whether online spaced education could prospectively improve students' acquisition and retention of knowledge.

Methods: One hundred fifteen third-year medical students at 2 schools were randomized to receive weekly/biweekly spaced education e-mails on 2 of 4 urology topics: prostate cancer (PC) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and erectile dysfunction (ED). E-mails began in month 1 of their third year. During their 3-month surgery clerkships, students completed a 28-item validated pre-test on all 4 topics, 8 web-based teaching cases, and a 28-item post-test. This test was administered again a mean of 280 days later to assess long-term retention.

Results: Under an intention-to-treat analysis, students who received the spaced education e-mails demonstrated significant, topic-specific increases in pre-test scores (P < .001 and P = .03 for PC/PSA and BPH/ED, respectively). Spaced education improved long-term retention of PC/PSA (P = .04) but not of BPH/ED (P = .60).

Conclusions: Spaced education delivered prospectively can generate significant, topic-specific learning.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Electronic Mail*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Urology / education*