Measuring Medical Student Preference: A Comparison of Classroom versus Online Instruction for Teaching PubMed*
Schimming, Laura M., Journal of the Medical Library Association
Objective: The research analyzed evaluation data to assess medical student satisfaction with the learning experience when required PubMed training is offered entirely online.
Methods: A retrospective study analyzed skills assessment scores and student feedback forms from 455 first-year medical students who completed PubMed training either through classroom sessions or an online tutorial. The class of 2006 (n=99) attended traditional librarian-led sessions in a computer classroom. The classes of 2007 (n=120), 2008 (n=121), and 2009 (n=115) completed the training entirely online through a self-paced tutorial. PubMed skills assessment scores and student feedback about the training were compared for all groups.
Results: As evidenced by open-ended comments about the training, students who took the online tutorial were equally or more satisfied with the learning experience than students who attended classroom sessions, with the classes of 2008 and 2009 reporting greater satisfaction (P<0.001) than the other 2 groups. The mean score on the PubMed skills assessment (91%) was the same for all groups of students.
Conclusions: Student satisfaction improved and PubMed assessment scores did not change when instruction was offered online to first-year medical students. Comments from the students who received online training suggest that the increased control and individual engagement with the web-based content led to their satisfaction with the online tutorial.
MEDLINE searching and information retrieval skills are core competencies for medical students. Studies have shown that instruction in literature searching improves students' MEDLINE skills and increases their use of original research articles to solve clinical problems [1-3]. However, few studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of different formats of instruction for teaching searching skills or the format's relationship to student satisfaction with the learning experience.
Health sciences librarians and health educators have developed successful interactive web-based tutorials for teaching literature searching and MEDLINE skills [4-7], evidence-based medicine skills [8,9], and introductory library and online public access catalog (OPAC) skills . Two studies comparing face-to-face classes covering searching and literacy skills with web-based tutorials for teaching medical students have concluded that both formats are equally effective [6,11], but the studies have found that students preferred either the face-to-face teaching over the tutorial  or found no difference in students' rating of the training formats .
Similarly, many studies at undergraduate, nonhealth sciences libraries have found little difference between computer or online instruction and traditional in-class library instruction in student performance and satisfaction. This finding has prompted many authors to conclude that web-based instruction is a viable alternative to traditional library classes . Additional studies have observed that students prefer the pace of an online library tutorial over the pace of a librarian-led lecture  and that students and faculty respond positively to computer-based library instruction [16,19].
However, contrasting findings have also been reported. Results of one study have shown that undergraduate students who attended in-class sessions achieved higher posttest scores than students completing online library instruction . Other research has found that university students and faculty were not strongly in favor of replacing librarian-led instruction with web-based tutorials  and that college students who attended librarian-led instruction reported a higher level of learning .
This paper compares two formats for providing required PubMed instruction to medical students: a traditional classroom session and a self-paced online tutorial encompassing no face-to-face teaching. …