Education in the Health Professions

SHORT RESEARCH REPORT
Year
: 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 40--41

Long-term retention of applied knowledge and problem-solving skills after completing an online learning module on infectious diseases


Kieran Walsh1, Gytautas Cvirka1, Matthew Homer2,  
1 BMJ Learning, British Medical Journal, London, UK
2 Leeds Institute of Medical Education, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Kieran Walsh
British Medical Journal Learning, British Medical Journal Group, BMA House, Tavistock Sq., London WC1H 9JR
UK

Abstract

BMJ Learning is the online learning service of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). It provides online resources to help doctors learn and improve their practice. E-learning resources have a pretest whereby learners can assess their baseline knowledge and skills and then an immediate posttest so that they can test themselves at the end. Evaluation of the pretest and posttest scores reveals that users improve their scores over the course of the learning. However, this only measures short-term improvement. The purpose of this evaluation is to estimate whether this improvement is sustained. We invited users of BMJ Learning who completed a learning module on anthrax to repeat the posttest 8 months after they completed the module. The mean pretest score of these users was 63.3%, the mean immediate posttest score was 82.6%, and the mean long-term posttest score was 81.1%. The differences between the pretest and both posttests were statistically significant (P < 0.001).



How to cite this article:
Walsh K, Cvirka G, Homer M. Long-term retention of applied knowledge and problem-solving skills after completing an online learning module on infectious diseases.Educ Health Prof 2019;2:40-41


How to cite this URL:
Walsh K, Cvirka G, Homer M. Long-term retention of applied knowledge and problem-solving skills after completing an online learning module on infectious diseases. Educ Health Prof [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Dec 6 ];2:40-41
Available from: https://www.ehpjournal.com/text.asp?2019/2/1/40/259387


Full Text



 Introduction



BMJ Learning is the online learning service of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). It provides online interactive and multimedia resources to help doctors learn and improve their practice. It covers clinical and nonclinical topics and is accredited for continuing medical education or continuous professional development in many countries worldwide. The content is evidence based and continually updated and designed to be practical so that it will support frontline health-care professionals in their day-to-day work. The content is increasingly image rich and multimedia – this has been created in response to user needs and requests. The target users are doctors and other health-care professionals – including general practitioners and generalists who work in secondary care. BMJ Learning is available to individual and institutional subscribers, and some of the resources are free. Many of the e-learning resources have a pretest whereby learners can assess their baseline applied knowledge and problem-solving skills (before they start learning), interactive cases that they can work through, and then a posttest so that they can test themselves at the end of their learning. The posttest is taken immediately after the formal learning has been completed. Users receive feedback to their answers to the questions as they work their way through the content. Evaluation of the pretest and posttest scores reveals that users consistently improve their scores over the course of the learning.[1] This improvement in score is a good outcome, but only measures short-term improvement in knowledge and problem-solving skills. The purpose of the evaluation described in this article is to estimate the extent to which this improvement is sustained over time. We conducted this evaluation on an online learning resource on infectious diseases. Learning about infectious diseases is important because such diseases can cause considerable morbidity and mortality.[2] Some infectious diseases are rare, so there can be limited opportunities to learn about these diseases in day-to-day clinical practice. This is another benefit of e-learning – it enables health-care professionals to learn about rare or unusual diseases at a time and place that suit them and in a safe online learning environment.

 Methodology



We invited users of BMJ Learning who completed a module on anthrax to join a special user assessment group. Users were invited by e-mail. All participants were volunteers. No incentives were offered in exchange for participation. Users were invited to take part over a period of 6 weeks. As described above, the anthrax module consists of a pretest, interactive cases, and a posttest. We invited users of BMJ Learning who completed a learning module on anthrax to repeat the posttest 8 months after they completed the module. We then evaluated the pretest scores, the immediate posttest scores, and the long-term posttest scores of those users (8 months after the immediate posttest). We analyzed the scores to see if the immediate improvement in scores is sustained over the time period of this evaluation.

 Results



Two hundred and three users completed the module on anthrax. All the users were invited and 51 users agreed to join the special user assessment group and repeated the posttest. The mean pretest score of these users was 63.3%, the mean immediate posttest score was 82.6%, and the mean long-term posttest score was 81.1%. We conducted a repeated-measures ANOVA on the scores at the three time points and found that there was a statistically significant time effect on the scores (F[2, 49}= 29.44, P < 0.001, partial η2 = 0.55). Bonferroni-corrected paired comparisons between the three time points indicated that the differences between the pretest and both posttests were statistically significant (P < 0.001), but that the difference between the two posttest scores was not statistically significant (P = 1.00).

 Conclusions



There was a clear improvement in applied knowledge and problem-solving skills from the pretest to the immediate posttest, and this increase sustained into the long term. This is important as learners will need to use their newly acquired knowledge and skills of infectious diseases in future. All the items in the test have been designed to test real-world knowledge and skills that can be applied in practice – this means that the improvement in scores is not only statistically significant, but also educationally and clinically significant. There are limitations to this analysis. This was a small evaluation and looked only at a single module. However, the results related to the pretest and the immediate posttest scores are consistent with those of previous analyses.[1] The ultimate purpose of e-learning is to provide interactive, engaging, high-fidelity, and low-cost resources that help health-care professionals improve their knowledge and their practice into the long term.[3],[4] This evaluation adds another piece of evidence of the long-term effectiveness of this type of e-learning resource in medical education.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1Walsh K. E-learning modules in new and emerging infectious diseases improve the applied knowledge and problem-solving skills of healthcare professional learners. BMJ Simulation and Technology Enhanced Learning 2018. Doi:10.1136/bmjstel-2017-000291.
2Hill-Cawthorne GA, Sorrell TC. Future directions for public health research in emerging infectious diseases. Public Health Res Pract 2016;26. pii: 2651655.
3Walsh K, Jaye P. The relationship between fidelity and cost in simulation. Med Educ 2012;46:1226.
4Ruiz JG, Mintzer MJ, Leipzig RM. The impact of E-learning in medical education. Acad Med 2006;81:207-12.