BackgroundOn-line physician education is increasing, but its efficacy in comparison with existing self-study methods is unknown.
ObjectiveTo compare knowledge, learning efficiency, and learner satisfaction produced by self-study of World Wide Web-based and print-based guidelines for care after acute myocardial infarction.
DesignRandomized, controlled trial.
Setting12 family medicine and internal medicine residency programs at four universities.
InterventionsIn proctored sessions, participants were randomly assigned to study from printed materials or from SAGE (Self-Study Acceleration with Graphic Evidence), a Web-based tutorial system. Both methods used identical self-assessment questions and answers and guideline text, but SAGE featured hyperlinks to specific guideline passages and graphic evidence animations.
MeasurementsScores on multiple-choice knowledge tests, score gain per unit of study time, and ratings on a learner satisfaction scale.
ResultsImmediate post-test scores on a 20-point scale were similar in the SAGE and control groups (median score, 15.0 compared with 14.5; P>0.2), but SAGE users spent less time studying (median, 27.0 compared with 38.5 minutes; P<0.001) and therefore had greater learning efficiency (median score gain, 8.6 compared with 6.7 points per hour; P = 0.04). On a scale of 5 to 20, SAGE users were more satisfied with learning (median rating, 17.0 compared with 15.0; P<0.001). After 4 to 6 months, knowledge had decreased to the same extent in the SAGE and control groups (median score, 12.0 compared with 11.0; P = 0.12).
ConclusionsOn-line tutorials may produce greater learning efficiency and satisfaction than print materials do, but one self-study exposure may be insufficient for long-term knowledge retention. Further research is needed to identify instructional features that motivate greater final learning and retention.