Effectiveness of pre-learning online modules in the first year medical school curriculum
Carr, Jessica Raye
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INTRODUCTION: Healthcare practices are rapidly evolving, shifting to multidisciplinary initiatives, and prompting a reevaluation of the current structure in the preparation of medical students. The response of medical schools is to adopt newly modeled curricula that use a flipped classroom structure to implement an integrated curriculum encouraging the practice of multidisciplinary inquiry within the basic sciences to develop physicians capable of thoughtful clinical reasoning skills. This pedagogical shift in medical education and the prevailing reaction of medical schools to fundamentally reform curriculum has lead to the emergence of a demand for innovative educational technology capable of effective distribution of pre-class material. OBJECTIVE: Assess student experience of SoftChalk online biochemistry modules as a pre-class learning tool to determine effectiveness in fostering student learning and engagement. In evaluating perceptions on improvement, future modules can be knowledgeably revised to maximize educational gains and elucidate effective/ineffective implementation practices. Data was stratified by previous biochemistry experience to determine if students who have taken the same traditionally instructed graduate biochemistry course (BI751) would have differing thematic opinions of the flipped model’s pre-learning environment. METHODS: Participants were Boston University’s first year medical school students (n=165) class of 2019’ in an integrated curriculum containing basic science modules. After completion of the modules a mixed-methods anonymous survey with a thematic approach to assess experience and improvement of SoftChalk biochemistry modules were emailed, with reminders. The survey contained demographic data, qualitative free response questions, and likert scale assessment questions with no incentive for completion. The data was analyzed independently by researchers to assess common themes and stratified by previous biochemistry experience. RESULTS: Three main themes emerged in assessment of data: SoftChalk as a quality learning tool, lack of integration/consistency, and formatting concerns with an overall positive perception of the pre-learning tool. Respondents commented on quality of SoftChalk as a pre-learning tool; the majority deeming it helpful, interactive, and having beneficial activities. Integration and consistency concerns surfaced in both experience, with commentary on pre-class modules being too dense, and improvement by consolidating information into one resource. The major formatting concern was the ability to maintain module value in paper form. Themes were furthered by the quantitative data with students perceiving SoftChalk as effective, providing a foundation for material in-class, and questions having the correct difficulty. When data was stratified BI751 disagreed that SoftChalk helped students stay on track with course material despite the class on average agreeing. CONCLUSIONS: While SoftChalk is an effective pre-class learning tool, the challenge is in reversing students’ perceptions that basic material should be instructed and that a comprehensive syllabus is necessary. Future SoftChalk modules can enhance success if pre-class modules are condensed, have a stronger transition from pre-class information to in-class activities and maintain consistency among instructor expectations.