Although computer-assisted education has been used to augment education in many areas, there are few studies of programs designed to replace lectures in a medical curriculum.
To test whether a thoughtfully designed computer program can replace a standard lecture in a pediatrics curriculum while teaching the subject matter equally well.
A computer program was developed to teach the Draw-a-Person developmental test using the multimedia-authoring tool Director. One of us (A.E.C.) tested and modified the program several times during its creation after submitting it to several objective evaluators. Thirty-nine students taking the clinical pediatrics rotation were chosen by month to interact with the program or attend the lecture. All students then scored 3 drawings and assigned them a developmental age according to the Draw-a-Person test rules. Students assigned to the computer program also completed a questionnaire evaluating the program in several subjective areas. A t test for 2 samples assuming equal variance was used to analyze the test results.
Students receiving the lecture (control group) scored the 3 drawings as 5.43 years (age range, 4.5-8 years), 9.08 years (age range, 7-12 years), and 3.5 years (age range, 2-5 years), respectively. Those using the computer program (study group) scored the 3 drawings as 5.91 years (age range, 5-7 years), 7.68 years (age range, 7-8 years), and 4.34 years (age range, 3-5 years), respectively. The correct answers for the ages were 6, 7.75, and 4.25 years, respectively. A t test for 2 samples assuming equal variance showed that students using the computer program performed better on all 3 drawings (P<.05, P<.02, and P<.002, respectively).
Students using the computer program were more accurate than students attending the lecture when scoring drawings and estimating a developmental age from them. These results support the conclusion that a thoughtfully designed computer program can replace a standard lecture in a pediatrics curriculum.