By adding new levels of experience, mobile Augmented Reality (mAR) can significantly increase the attractiveness of mobile learning applications in medical education, compared to traditional textbook learning, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
"Mobile AR blended learning environments offer a new level of experience for learners, especially in areas such as forensic medicine where ethical constraints may have to be placed on learning specific subjects in real-life scenarios," study authors write in JMIR. "Although there are a number of projects that integrate mobile AR for basic science education, for example, for middle-school or high-school students--and some of these also touch on subjects related to medicine--projects employing such concepts for basic medical education are still rare."
The article's results are based on a German study whose objective was to "compare the impact of the heightened realism of a self-developed mAR blended learning environment (mARble) on learners to textbook material, especially for ethically sensitive subjects such as forensic medicine, while taking into account basic psychological aspects (usability and higher level of emotional involvement) as well as learning outcomes (increased learning efficiency)."
A prestudy was conducted based on a convenience sample of 10 third-year medical students in Germany. During the 30-minute learning period, the students were randomized into two groups: the first group consisted of pairs of students, each equipped with one iPhone with a preinstalled copy of mARble, while the second group was provided with textbook material.
In what the article calls "statistically significant" results, the mARble group (6 of 10 medical students) showed greater knowledge gain than the control group (4 of 10 medical students).
"The mARble group performed considerably better regarding learning efficiency; there are hints for activating components of the mAR concept that may serve to fascinate the participants and possibly boost interest in the topic for the remainder of the class," concludes the article. "While the small sample size reduces our study's conclusiveness, its design seems appropriate for determining the effects of interactive eLearning material with respect to emotions, learning efficiency, and hedonic and pragmatic qualities using a larger group."
Some medical schools have taken the lead in introducing courses to teach students vital technological skills that will be indispensable in future healthcare settings. The University of California at Irvine School of Medicine is one such school. Its innovative medical education program--the iMedEd Initiative--is an iPad-based curriculum, the "first in the nation to provide a completely digital, interactive learning environment that includes tablet-based learning and portable ultrasound clinical training."
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