Efficiency of web application and spaced repetition algorithms as an aid in preparing to practical examination of histology
Dominik Karch1,, , Krzysztofa Kopyt1, Aleksandra Gauden1, Michal Nowakowski2
1 Student Research Group – Jagiellonian University Medical College, Poland
2 Jagiellonian University Medical College, Department of Medical Education, Poland

Aim: The aim of this study is to evaluate impact of using web application on the results of histology practical exam as well as to check if the SuperMemo-based algorithm is a useful tool in medical education.

Introduction: Students in medical disciplines are looking for new learning strategies. Computer applications are becoming more popular as they use a variety of methods to improve efficiency of studying. One of them is spaced repetition algorithm like SuperMemo.

Methods: We prepared web application which shows the photography of histological slide. Students had to decide if they have recognized the slide and the program was measuring time of each answer. Then the algorithm allocated new slide to display.

Users were randomly divided into two groups: study – where difficult slides were shown more frequently (SuperMemo2-based algorithm) and control – where the slides were displayed randomly.

Quality of the student's answers was evaluated according to the 6-point scale, where 0 means incorrect answer, and from 1 to 5 – correct answer depending on time.

We also took into consideration results of histology practical exam (0–15 points).

The level of statistical significance was set at p<0.05.

Results: The study involved 204 first year medical students. The study group (n=98) and control (n=106) were similar in terms of the average number of responses in application (901 vs. 858; p=0.73).

We have shown a statistically significant difference which indicate obtaining higher examination score by students who used our application – 11.8 vs. 10.98 (p=0.016).

There was no superiority of spaced repetition algorithm over the random allocation of slides, based on the examination results (11.7 vs. 11.9; p=0.73).

Conclusion: The usage of computer programs can be a valuable complement to traditional teaching methods. As we showed in this study it may have a measurable effect on examinations results of the students.

Acknowledgements: The approval of the Jagiellonian University Bioethics Committee was obtained.

The authors thank Prof. J.A. Litwin, Head of the Department of Histology Jagiellonian University Medical College for substantive supervision over the study.

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