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Assessing the learning potential of an interactive digital game versus an interactive-style didactic lecture: the continued importance of didactic teaching in medical student education.

  • Author(s): Courtier, Jesse
  • Webb, Emily M
  • Phelps, Andrew S
  • Naeger, David M
  • et al.


Games with educational intent offer a possible advantage of being more interactive and increasing learner satisfaction.


We conducted a two-armed experiment to evaluate student satisfaction and content mastery for an introductory pediatric radiology topic, taught by either an interactive digital game or with a traditional didactic lecture.

Materials and methods

Medical students participating in a fourth-year radiology elective were invited to participate. Student cohorts were alternatively given a faculty-supervised 1h session playing a simple interactive digital Tic-tac-toe quiz module on pediatric gastrointestinal radiology or a 1h didactic introductory lecture on the same topic. Survey questions assessed the learners' perceived ability to recall the material as well as their satisfaction with the educational experience. Results of an end-of-rotation exam were reviewed to evaluate a quantitative measure of learning between groups. Survey responses were analyzed with a chi-squared test. Exam results for both groups were analyzed with a paired Student's t-test.


Students in the lecture group had higher test scores compared to students in the game group (4.0/5 versus 3.6/5, P = 0.045). Students in the lecture group reported greater understanding and recall of the material than students in the game group (P < 0.001 and P = 0.004, respectively). Students in the lecture group perceived the lecture to be more enjoyable and a better use of their time compared to those in the game group (P = 0.04 and P < 0.001, respectively). There was no statistically significant difference between the lecture and game group in ability to maintain interest (P = 0.187). In comparison to pre-survey results, there was a statistically significant decrease in interest for further digital interactive materials reported by students in the game group (P = 0.146).


Our experience supported the use of a traditional lecture over a digital game module. While these results might be affected by the specific lecture and digital content in any given comparison, a digital module is not always the superior option.

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