The use of the Internet makes it possible to bring together learners and teachers from rural areas and academic centers and to deliver well-accepted educational materials quickly and effectively. The objective of this study was to determine feasibility and the effectiveness of a problem-based small-group learning (PBSGL) intervention conducted via the Internet in a randomized controlled trial. A group of 23 family physicians from rural Northern Ontario practices and across Canada were randomly assigned to a study group (n = 11) and a control group (n = 12). The study group spent two months discussing the topic of depression in the elderly with the help of a facilitator and two geriatric psychiatrists. The control group was given similar educational resources via the Internet but without the benefit of the small-group interaction. Outcome measures included qualitative feedback from the learners and teachers as well as a Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) test before and after the study. The study provided important insight into the feasibility, keys to success, utility of Internet-assisted education from an education and evaluation perspective. Although the MCQ testing used revealed no significant differences between the study group and the control group, the usefulness of the measure is considered within the context of the educational approach. It is unclear whether this method of continuing medical education (CME) represents an effective way to conduct such activities.
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