Asynchronous Distance Learning of the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale During the COVID-19 Pandemic (E-Learning vs Video): Randomized Controlled Trial

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Jan 15;23(1):e23594. doi: 10.2196/23594.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably altered the regular medical education curriculum while increasing the need for health care professionals. Senior medical students are being incrementally deployed to the front line to address the shortage of certified physicians. These students, some of whom will be fast-tracked as physicians, may lack knowledge regarding the initial management of time-critical emergencies such as stroke.

Objective: Our aim was to determine whether an e-learning module could improve asynchronous distance knowledge acquisition of the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) in senior medical students compared to the traditional didactic video.

Methods: A randomized, data analyst-blinded web-based trial was conducted at the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine between April and June 2020. Fifth year medical students followed a distance learning path designed to teach the NIHSS. The control group followed the traditional didactic video created by Patrick Lyden, while the e-learning group followed the updated version of a previously tested, highly interactive e-learning module. The main outcome was the score on a 50-question quiz displayed upon completion of the learning material. The difference in the proportion of correct answers for each specific NIHSS item was also assessed.

Results: Out of 158 potential participants, 88 started their allocated learning path and 75 completed the trial. Participants who followed the e-learning module performed better than those who followed the video (38 correct answers, 95% CI 37-39, vs 35 correct answers, 95% CI 34-36, P<.001). Participants in the e-learning group scored better on five elements than the video group: key NIHSS concepts (P=.02), the consciousness - global item (P<.001), the facial palsy item (P=.04), the ataxia item (P=.03), and the sensory item (P=.04).

Conclusions: Compared to the traditional didactic video, a highly interactive e-learning module enhances asynchronous distance learning and NIHSS knowledge acquisition in senior medical students.

Keywords: COVID-19; e-learning; medical education; medical student; online learning; randomized controlled trial; stroke; video.