Selection and Use of Online Learning Resources by First-Year Medical Students: Cross-Sectional Study

  • Judd T
  • Elliott K
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Abstract

BACKGROUND Medical students have access to a wide range of learning resources, many of which have been specifically developed for or identified and recommended to them by curriculum developers or teaching staff. There is an expectation that students will access and use these resources to support their self-directed learning. However, medical educators lack detailed and reliable data about which of these resources students use to support their learning and how this use relates to key learning events or activities. OBJECTIVE The purpose of this study was to comprehensively document first-year medical student selection and use of online learning resources to support their bioscience learning within a case-based curriculum and assess these data in relation to our expectations of student learning resource requirements and use. METHODS Study data were drawn from 2 sources: a survey of student learning resource selection and use (2013 cohort; n=326) and access logs from the medical school learning platform (2012 cohort; n=337). The paper-based survey, which was distributed to all first-year students, was designed to assess the frequency and types of online learning resources accessed by students and included items about their perceptions of the usefulness, quality, and reliability of various resource types and sources. Of 237 surveys returned, 118 complete responses were analyzed (36.2% response rate). Usage logs from the learning platform for an entire semester were processed to provide estimates of first-year student resource use on an individual and cohort-wide basis according to method of access, resource type, and learning event. RESULTS According to the survey data, students accessed learning resources via the learning platform several times per week on average, slightly more often than they did for resources from other online sources. Google and Wikipedia were the most frequently used nonuniversity sites, while scholarly information sites (eg, online journals and scholarly databases) were accessed relatively infrequently. Students were more likely to select learning resources based on the recommendation of peers than of teaching staff. The overwhelming majority of the approximately 70,000 resources accessed by students via the learning platform were lecture notes, with each accessed an average of 167 times. By comparison, recommended journal articles and (online) textbook chapters were accessed only 49 and 31 times, respectively. The number and type of learning resources accessed by students through the learning platform was highly variable, with a cluster analysis revealing that a quarter of students accessed very few resources in this way. CONCLUSIONS Medical students have easy access to a wide range of quality learning resources, and while some make good use of the learning resources recommended to them, many ignore most and access the remaining ones infrequently. Learning analytics can provide useful measures of student resource access through university learning platforms but fails to account for resources accessed via external online sources or sharing of resources using social media.

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APA

Judd, T., & Elliott, K. (2017). Selection and Use of Online Learning Resources by First-Year Medical Students: Cross-Sectional Study. JMIR Medical Education, 3(2), e17. https://doi.org/10.2196/mededu.7382

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