McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Internet-based instruction is effective in teaching health professionals

Published: September 10, 2008
Anthony Levinson Sarah Garside
Anthony Levinson (left) and Sarah Garside

The Internet is increasingly used to teach health professionals but, until now, no one has looked deeply at how well it works.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by a team of education researchers from the Mayo Clinic and McMaster University has found Internet instruction is generally effective.

An all-encompassing search of the world's scientific literature since the dawn of the World Wide Web was made to summarize the effect of Internet-based instruction for health professions in comparison to no instruction and non-Internet educational programs. The McMaster research authors are assistant professor Anthony Levinson and associate professor Sarah Garside of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, who worked with David A. Cook of the Mayo Clinic and other researchers there including McMaster graduate Victor Montori.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that Internet-based learning leads to large positive effects compared to no instruction. However, the positive impact of Internet instruction in comparison to non-Internet instructional methods are on average pretty small, and more inconsistent.

Levinson said that further research will compare the different types of Internet-based learning programs. "We need to figure out what the active ingredients are for successful online learning programs."

Garside and Levinson are directors of the division of e-Learning Innovation for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and Levinson holds the John R. Evans Chair in Health Sciences Education Research. They are testing and incorporating electronic learning technologies into a renewed medical curriculum.

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