Background: It is essential that medical students are adequately trained in smoking cessation. A web-based tobacco abstinence training program might supplement or replace traditional didactic methods.
Methods: One-hundred and forty third-year medical students were all provided access to a self-directed web-based learning module on smoking cessation. Thereafter, they were randomly allocated to attend 1 of 4 education approaches: (a) web-based training using the same tool, (b) lecture, (c) role playing, and (d) supervised interaction with real patients.
Results: Success of the intervention was measured in an objective structured clinical examination. Scores were highest in Group 4 (35.9 ± 8.7), followed by Groups 3 (35.7 ± 6.5), 2 (33.5 ± 9.4), and 1 (28.0 ± 9.6; p = .007). Students in Groups 4 (60.7%) and 3 (57.7%) achieved adequate counseling skills more frequently than those in Groups 2 (34.8%) and 1 (30%; p = .043). There was no difference in the scores reflecting theoretical knowledge (p = .439). Self-assessment of cessation skills and students' satisfaction with training was significantly better in Groups 3 and 4 as compared with 1 and 2 (p < .001 and p = .006, respectively).
Conclusions: Role playing and interaction with real patients are equally efficient and both more powerful learning tools than web-based learning with or without a lecture.