Changes in medical student learning preferences help drive innovation in teaching and require schools and commercial resources to quickly adapt. However, few studies have detailed the relationship of learner preferences to the environment and teaching modalities used in the pre-clerkship years, nor do they incorporate third-party resources. Our study attempts to analyze learner preferences by comparing the use of traditional and third-party resources. In 2017-18, a survey was distributed to medical students and residents at two accredited medical schools. Participants noted preferred styles of learning regarding lecture duration, timing, location, format, third-party resources, learner types and USMLE Step 1 scores. The 'Learning Environment, Learning Processes, and Learning Outcomes' (LEPO) framework  was used to examine learner preferences, with responses compared using the Mann-Whitney U and two proportion z-tests. A total of 329 respondents completed the survey: 62.7% medical students and 37.3% residents. The majority of participants identified their learning style by Kolb  as converging (33.0%) or accommodating (39.2%). Students preferred lectures 30-40 minutes long (43.3%), during morning hours (54.2%), in their own homes (52.0%), via online lectures with simultaneous drawings (56.0%), and classroom/podcast lectures with PowerPoint® presentations (54.3%). Overall, students rated third-party resource characteristics higher than traditional curricula, including effectiveness of teachers, length, quality, time of day, and venue (p < 0.001), but also preferred small group formats. Students reported animated videos (46.6%) and simultaneous drawings (46.5%) as the most effective means of retaining information. Understanding changing learner preferences is important in creating optimal curricula for today's students. Using the LEPO framework, this study identifies critical preferences in successfully teaching medical students, inclusive of commercial and traditional resources. These results can also help guide changes in pedagogy necessary due to the more recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: Learning preferences; learning environments; learning outcomes; learning processes; medical school curricula; medical students; third-party resources; traditional resources.