Background: E-learning has the potential to make important contributions to medical education, but there has been limited study of a blended approach in which the digital resources are introduced alongside traditional teaching methods such as lectures.
Methods: We describe the successful embedding of an e-learning resource into 3 of the 5 weeks of cardiovascular system teaching for 164 first-year medical students by providing scheduled slots in the timetables. A questionnaire completed by the students at the end of the 5 weeks had a response rate of 66%. Students varied in how they made use of the resource, some systematically working through it and others browsing and studying sections felt to be personally most relevant.
Results: Almost all (96%) rated the e-learning resources as probably or definitely of value: they particularly valued interactive activities, animations, video demonstrations, video clips of experts and self-assessment exercises. Graduate students had a significantly more favourable assessment of the e-learning resources than their undergraduate colleagues, while female students felt the value in supporting existing learning opportunities more strongly than male students.
Conclusions: It should not be assumed that all students will choose to use an e-learning resource in the same way and instructional design should enable alternative approaches. The sequence in which the e-learning resource is used in relation to the other learning opportunities, such as lectures and PBL group discussions, may be important and merits further consideration. The experiences reported in this study provide encouragement and pointers for others engaged in the integration of e-learning in their curriculum.