Integration of mobile technology in educational materials improves participation: creation of a novel smartphone application for resident education

J Surg Educ. 2015 Jul-Aug;72(4):670-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2015.01.015. Epub 2015 Mar 29.


Objective: Traditional education consists of didactics and book learning. Recently, technology has been integrated into graduate medical education, primarily in the form of simulation. The primary aim of this study was to investigate if a novel smartphone application using technology to engage learners would improve participation in an educational activity when compared with a daily e-mail format and how this use translated to performance on standardized testing.

Design: The UF Surgery App (App), which is a smartphone application, was developed to deliver 2 questions from a general surgery educational database every weekday from October to February 2013. The App, developed for iOS, featured a notification alarm and a reminder icon to actively engage the learner. Learners who used the App responded to multiple-choice questions and were provided instantaneous feedback in the form of a correct answer with an explanation. The response rate and answers were collected prospectively and compared with the American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination score.

Setting: University of Florida, College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, a university teaching hospital.

Participants: A total of 46 general surgical residents were enrolled in a university training program. Participation was voluntary.

Results: Overall, 26 of 46 (57%) residents participated. Of the users, 70% answered more than 20% of the questions, while 46% responded to more than 70% of questions. The percentage of correct answers on the App was positively correlated with standardized score (p = 0.005), percentage correct (p = 0.02), and percentile (p = 0.034) on the ABSITE examination.

Conclusions: Technology can be used to actively engage residents. Deployment of this novel App improved participation over a daily question-answer e-mail format, and answers correlated with standardized test performance. The effect of the App on overall education is unclear, and a multi-institutional study has been initiated.

Keywords: App; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; graduate medical education; resident education; smartphone application; technology in education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Electronic Mail
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smartphone*
  • Teaching Materials*