Novel educational approach for medical students: improved retention rates using interactive medical software compared with traditional lecture-based format

J Surg Educ. Jul-Aug 2012;69(4):449-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2012.05.013.


Background: Mannequin and computer-based simulators are useful for the practice of patient management, physical procedures, and competency. However, they are ineffective in teaching clinical medicine. StepStone Interactive Medical Software (SS) is a web-based medical learning modality that provides the user with a highly focused set of evaluative and interventional tasks to treat memorable virtual patients in a visual case-based format.

Objective: To determine whether the SS learning modality is superior to traditional lecture format in medical student learning and retention.

Methods: After Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was obtained and the consents were signed, 30 third-year medical students were assigned randomly to 2 groups of 15 students each: The control group received two 30-minute PowerPoint lectures (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington) about torsades de pointes (TdP) and pulseless electrical activity (PEA), and the SS group was given 1 hour to review 2 SS cases teaching TdP and PEA. A preintervention test was given to assess their baseline knowledge. An immediate postintervention test was given to both groups. Twenty-two days later, a long-term retention test was administered. The results were analyzed using a Student t test for continuous variables.

Results: The mean scores for the preintervention test in the control and SS groups were 44.9 ± 3% and 44.1 ± 2%, respectively (p = 0.41). The mean scores for the postintervention test in the control and SS groups were 61.7 ± 2% and 86.7 ± 2%, respectively (p < 0.001). Improvement from baseline knowledge was calculated, and the mean improvement was 16.8 ± 3% in the control group and 42.5 ± 2% in the SS group (p < 0.001). The long-term retention test revealed the mean scores of 55.8 ± 3% in the control group and 70.1 ± 3% in the SS group (p < 0.001). Long-term improvement from baseline knowledge was calculated and the control group improved by 10.9 ± 4%, whereas the SS group improved by 26 ± 3% (p = 0.002).

Conclusions: The SS learning modality demonstrated a significant improvement in student learning retention compared to traditional didactic lecture format. SS is an effective web-based medical education tool.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / instrumentation
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Problem-Based Learning / methods
  • Quality Improvement
  • Reference Values
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology*
  • Software*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult