Background: Medical students are required to retain vast amounts of medical knowledge on the path to becoming physicians. To address this challenge, multimedia Web-based learning resources have been developed to supplement traditional text-based materials. The Picmonic(®) Learning System (PLS; Picmonic, Phoenix, AZ, USA) is a novel multimedia Web-based learning platform that delivers audiovisual mnemonics designed to improve memory retention of medical sciences.
Methods: A single-center, randomized, subject-blinded, controlled study was conducted to compare the PLS with traditional text-based material for retention of medical science topics. Subjects were randomly assigned to use two different types of study materials covering several diseases. Subjects randomly assigned to the PLS group were given audiovisual mnemonics along with text-based materials, whereas subjects in the control group were given the same text-based materials with key terms highlighted. The primary endpoints were the differences in performance on immediate, 1 week, and 1 month delayed free-recall and paired-matching tests. The secondary endpoints were the difference in performance on a 1 week delayed multiple-choice test and self-reported satisfaction with the study materials. Differences were calculated using unpaired two-tailed t-tests.
Results: PLS group subjects demonstrated improvements of 65%, 161%, and 208% compared with control group subjects on free-recall tests conducted immediately, 1 week, and 1 month after study of materials, respectively. The results of performance on paired-matching tests showed an improvement of up to 331% for PLS group subjects. PLS group subjects also performed 55% greater than control group subjects on a 1 week delayed multiple choice test requiring higher-order thinking. The differences in test performance between the PLS group subjects and the control group subjects were statistically significant (P<0.001), and the PLS group subjects reported higher overall satisfaction with the material.
Conclusion: The data of this pilot site demonstrate marked improvements in the retention of disease topics when using the PLS compared with traditional text-based materials. The use of the PLS in medical education is supported.
Keywords: computer-assisted instruction; e-learning; medical education; multimedia instruction.