Internet-Based Assessment of Oncology Health Care Professional Learning Style and Optimization of Materials for Web-Based Learning: Controlled Trial With Concealed Allocation

J Med Internet Res. 2017 Jul 25;19(7):e265. doi: 10.2196/jmir.7506.


Background: Precision medicine has resulted in increasing complexity in the treatment of cancer. Web-based educational materials can help address the needs of oncology health care professionals seeking to understand up-to-date treatment strategies.

Objective: This study aimed to assess learning styles of oncology health care professionals and to determine whether learning style-tailored educational materials lead to enhanced learning.

Methods: In all, 21,465 oncology health care professionals were invited by email to participate in the fully automated, parallel group study. Enrollment and follow-up occurred between July 13 and September 7, 2015. Self-enrolled participants took a learning style survey and were assigned to the intervention or control arm using concealed alternating allocation. Participants in the intervention group viewed educational materials consistent with their preferences for learning (reading, listening, and/or watching); participants in the control group viewed educational materials typical of the My Cancer Genome website. Educational materials covered the topic of treatment of metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer using cyclin-dependent kinases 4/6 (CDK4/6) inhibitors. Participant knowledge was assessed immediately before (pretest), immediately after (posttest), and 2 weeks after (follow-up test) review of the educational materials. Study statisticians were blinded to group assignment.

Results: A total of 751 participants enrolled in the study. Of these, 367 (48.9%) were allocated to the intervention arm and 384 (51.1%) were allocated to the control arm. Of those allocated to the intervention arm, 256 (69.8%) completed all assessments. Of those allocated to the control arm, 296 (77.1%) completed all assessments. An additional 12 participants were deemed ineligible and one withdrew. Of the 552 participants, 438 (79.3%) self-identified as multimodal learners. The intervention arm showed greater improvement in posttest score compared to the control group (0.4 points or 4.0% more improvement on average; P=.004) and a higher follow-up test score than the control group (0.3 points or 3.3% more improvement on average; P=.02).

Conclusions: Although the study demonstrated more learning with learning style-tailored educational materials, the magnitude of increased learning and the largely multimodal learning styles preferred by the study participants lead us to conclude that future content-creation efforts should focus on multimodal educational materials rather than learning style-tailored content.

Keywords: Web-based Instruction; continuing education; e-learning; education, distance; information dissemination; learning; medical oncology/education; online systems; teaching materials.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Education, Distance / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / standards*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemedicine / methods*