Background: The ability to reliably recognize and classify a range of skin signs and symptoms remains a necessary skill across most clinical disciplines but one that is traditionally mastered via nonsystematic experience over long periods.
Objective: We investigated whether online Perceptual and Adaptive Learning Modules (PALMs) could efficiently train preclerkship medical students to identify and discriminate primary skin lesion morphologies, configurations, and anatomic distributions.
Methods: Medical students completed an online skin lesion morphology PALM voluntarily in year 1 and by requirement, along with configuration and anatomic distribution PALMs, in year 2. In controlled before-and-after studies, multiple-choice pretests and posttests using previously unused images, assessed PALM-induced learning. In prospective cohort studies, differences in year-2 performance between students who had and had not completed the morphology PALM in year 1 were also assessed.
Results: Multiple-choice tests, used to evaluate PALM effectiveness, demonstrated large (effect sizes of 1.1 [±0.1 SE] to 2.2 [±0.1 SE]) and statistically significant (P < .0001) improvements after PALM training, with learning retention when tested after 1 year.
Limitations: Results are from self-selected groups and a single class at 1 institution.
Conclusion: PALMs are a useful tool for efficient development of the core clinical skills of pattern recognition and classification of skin lesion characteristics.
Keywords: adaptive learning; dermatology; diagnosis; experiential learning; lesion configuration; lesion distribution; lesion morphology; pattern recognition; perceptual learning; skin lesions.
Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Dermatology, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.