Objectives: To determine the feasibility and effectiveness of virtual-patient computer-assisted instruction (CAI) in pre-clerkship undergraduate otolaryngology education.
Study design: Prospective, randomized, controlled trial.
Subjects and methods: Second-year medical students at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, were randomized into two groups: group A was given a CAI module and group B was presented with two Internet review articles, both covered specific learning objectives for pediatric stridor. Students completed randomized pre- and post-tests and a questionnaire one week later.
Results: Fifty-five students completed the study with 28 in group A and 27 in group B. Mean pretest scores were 59.1% in group A and 59.8% in group B (95% CI = -7.9% to 10.4%). Mean post-test scores were significantly elevated in group A (84.6%, P < 0.001) and group B (74.3%, P = 0.008). Group A had a significantly higher (P = 0.02) mean post-test score than group B (mean difference of 10.2%). Students spent significantly more time (P < 0.001) reading text articles (25.5 minutes) than completing the CAI (9.06 minutes). Forty-one (66%) students completed the survey. Thirty-six (88%) respondents indicated that they preferred CAI to online articles.
Conclusion: CAI is a feasible, effective, and efficient means of enhancing self-directed learning as supplementation to the pre-clerkship undergraduate otolaryngology curriculum.