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Effectiveness of virtual discovery learning in medicine

Faculty Advisor




learning outcomes, virtual learning, in person learning, medical students

Abstract (summary)

Background/Purpose - After pandemic restrictions were lifted, students were interested in retaining hybrid learning options. In response, the MD program offered a Virtual Discovery Learning (DL) stream during pre-clerkship. This study compares the learning outcomes of virtual vs in-person DL students in the Gastroenterology and Nutrition course. Methods - Using mixed methods, students were separated into Virtual and In-person DL groups. Learning outcome data was collected and anonymized. Overall student performance for MCQ assessments and performance for DL specific questions in those assessments was compared between the two groups using two-tailed T-Test with two sample unequal variance. Qualitatively, we performed focus groups where students provided feedback on their Virtual DL experience, their reasoning for choosing the Virtual DL stream and their impressions of the experience. Results - Statistical analysis of student performance data concluded that there were no statistically significant differences in grade averages between the Virtual and In-person DL groups for the GI final exam (p=0.92), except for one DL specific question on the final (p=0.008). Focus group sessions identified 4 main themes for why students chose virtual learning: Covid-19; Flexibility; Accessibility and Learning Preferences; and Mental Health. Discussion - Students who chose to attend Discovery Learning virtually did not experience any academic advantage or disadvantage in learning compared to students who attended DL in-person, and psychosocial benefits of virtual attendance were identified. This suggests that an optional hybrid model for DL is potentially beneficial to students without impacting learning outcomes.

Publication Information



Presented on April 12-15, 2024, at the International Congress on Academic Medicine (ICAM) 2024, held at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver & Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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