Background: Electronic tools with substantial educational applications are now widely available.
Methods: In a prospective, randomized study, the value of Web-based educational tools for teaching second-year medical students was evaluated. The 35-hour, image-intensive multifaculty neoplasia course was selected for the experiment, with 103 students assigned to the control group (C) and 61 to the experimental group (E). Representative password-controlled multimedia course modules, accessible via the Internet, were developed. The E cohort was exposed to both classroom and Web-aided materials, whereas the C group had access to the Web modules only after the experiment was concluded (but before the final examination). Pre- and post-exposure questionnaires assessed computer knowledge, familiarity with the Internet, availability of computer access, and the value of Web-based education for both cohorts. Additionally, pre-and post-exposure tests were administered to both cohorts based on educational materials presented in the Web modules.
Results: The overall participation rate was 64% (E = 69%; C = 60%). The post-test showed no major performance difference between the two groups. The questionnaires revealed that: less than 1% of the students had not accessed the Internet previously; less than 5% had not used the Internet for medical education before; 34% felt that computer resources on campus were inadequate; and over 75% found Web-based education to be an important additional educational resource. The major negative aspect was the slow pace of data transfer for modem-based home access. Only 1% of students felt that Web-based education could completely replace traditional teaching.
Conclusion: The potential for incorporating Web-based education in the medical curriculum is considerable.