Influence of case-based e-learning on students' performance in point-of-care ultrasound courses: a randomized trial

Eur J Emerg Med. 2016 Aug;23(4):298-304. doi: 10.1097/MEJ.0000000000000270.


Background: Theoretical knowledge, visual perception, and sensorimotor skills are key elements in ultrasound education. Classroom-based presentations are used routinely to teach theoretical knowledge, whereas visual perception and sensorimotor skills typically require hands-on training (HT). We aimed to compare the effect of classroom-based lectures versus a case-based e-learning (based on clinical cases only) on the hands-on performance of trainees during an emergency ultrasound course.

Participants and methods: This is a randomized, controlled, parallel-group study. Sixty-two medical students were randomized into two groups [group 1 (G1) and group 2 (G2)]. G1 (n=29) was subjected to a precourse e-learning, based on 14 short screencasts (each 5 min), an on-site discussion (60 min), and a standardized HT session on the day of the course. G2 (n=31) received classroom-based presentations on the day of the course before an identical HT session. Both groups completed a multiple-choice (MC) pretest (test A), a practical postcourse test (objective structured clinical exam), and MC tests directly after the HT (test B) and 1 day after the course (test C). The Mann-Whitney U-test was used for statistical analysis.

Results: G1 performed markedly better in test A (median 84.2, 25%; 75% percentile: 68.5; 92.2) compared with G2 (65.8; 53.8; 80.4), who had not participated in case-based e-learning (P=0.0009). No differences were found in the objective structured clinical exam, test B, and test C.

Conclusion: e-learning exclusively based on clinical cases is an effective method of education in preparation for HT sessions and can reduce attendance time in ultrasound courses.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction* / methods
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Ultrasonography* / methods
  • Young Adult