AMEE 2009: Transfering PBL from paper to e-versions using virtual patients

AMEE 2009, Malaga, Spain. During this Short Communication Session, held on the final day of the AMEE 2009 conference in Malaga, Spain, Susan Albright from Tufts University Science Knowledgebase in Boston Massachusetts talked about her experience transferring from a paper-based PBL system to an electronic system using virtual patients.

As Susan told us: “The course director came to us, and for a variety of reasons he wanted to go from paper-based to an electronic version of the system.”

The main reasons included student accessibility, the ability to share cases and content after the course, and the fact that the students are ‘Digital Natives’ so the department needed to update the way that their PBL was delivered.

During the transfer, they were faced with many challenges. However, the main hurdle was altering their virtual patient system so it was fit for purpose. As Susan said: “The virtual patient tool was not based for PBL, it was linear. So we needed to jerry-rig the system to make it work.”

“The other thing was that we didn’t have a tool at the time [of development] to track the student’s clinical reasoning, and this is something we recently completed,” she added.

Ultimately the new system was well received by students and educators. “The ratings, given all the problems and the things we needed to jerry-rig, was quite favourable,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t worse, and it was at least equal to the ratings in the past.”

The evaluation even yielded some surprising results. For example students rated the electronic virtual patient cases higher than the paper versions. This, of course, warrants further research.

“I’d also like to go back and look at the assessment of the facilitators and see how that has changed,” she adds. “I think that would be an interesting piece of data.”

Listen to the full interview with Susan Albright here.

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