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Who needs the textbook?
Does peer learning or higher levels of e-learning improve learning abilities?
A randomized trial. Skjodt Worm B et al. Medical Education Online 2013 18:21877.
Reviewed by Harris Burstin


What was the study question?
Do higher levels of electronic learning improve learning abilities and can peer interaction further improve learning abilities?

How was the study done?
One hundred and twenty 3rd and 4th year Danish medical students were recruited via social media. Students scored comparably on a pre-test on head injury. Students were then randomly assigned into six learning groups of 20 students each.

Students received learning materials as either an e-textbook (60) or an interactive e-case module (60). Within each group, 20 students received learning materials in a simple e-format (text, images, audio), 20 students received learning material in a more complex format (text, images, audio plus videos and animation) and 20 students received the more complex learning materials and were also able to interact with their peers via internet mail and blog forums.

What were the results?
All groups demonstrated improvement in their scores. Students who received their materials via an e-case module scored higher than those who received materials via an e-textbook . Improvement was statistically higher for students in both groups who received the more complex format. Students who received the complex e-case format performed the best and demonstrated greatest improvement.

Peer interaction had no impact on performance but demonstrated the highest level of student satisfaction.

What are the implications of these findings?

Electronic case-based learning, especially the richer, more complex variety is more effective than traditional text book-based learning. Peer interaction enhances student satisfaction with the learning modality.

Editor's note: E-learning modules have evolved in the past decade and with the incorporation of social media may be just as effective or even better than traditional classroom based learning (RR).

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