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Internet-Based Health Profession Education Not Superior

While non-Internet and Internet-based education provides similar outcomes, Internet programs are significantly better than no intervention

TUESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Internet-based education significantly improves outcomes in comparison to no intervention, but results are inconsistent when comparing Internet-based education to non-Internet educational programs, according to a report in the Sept. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

David A. Cook, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues performed a meta-analysis to determine the effect of Internet-based education in health professional training compared to no intervention and non-Internet interventions. Any study quantifying the association of Internet-based instruction with educational outcomes in any health care professional program using a non-intervention, non-Internet control group or a pre-intervention assessment was eligible. Data was extracted by two independent reviewers using a standardized protocol and effect sizes were pooled using a random effects model.

While 201 eligible studies were identified, significant heterogeneity in results across studies was noted. The pooled effect size favored Internet-based instruction in comparison to no intervention and was 1.0 for knowledge-based interventions, 0.85 for skills, and 0.82 for learner behaviors and patient effects. Although significantly smaller, the pooled effects favored Internet-based instruction in comparison to non-Internet formats (0.12 for knowledge, 0.09 for skills, and 0.51 for learner behaviors or patient effects), the researchers report. No meaningful treatment-subgroup interactions were identified, the authors note.

"Internet-based learning is associated with large positive effects compared with no intervention," the authors report. "In contrast, effects compared with non-Internet instructional methods are heterogeneous and generally small, suggesting effectiveness similar to traditional methods. Future research should directly compare different Internet-based interventions."

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