Open Access Research article

Does individual learning styles influence the choice to use a web-based ECG learning programme in a blended learning setting?

Mikael Nilsson1*, Jan Östergren1, Uno Fors2, Anette Rickenlund3, Lennart Jorfeldt3, Kenneth Caidahl3 and Gunilla Bolinder1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Karolinska Institutet, 171 76, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Computer and Systems Science (DSV), Stockholm University, Forum 100 S-164 40 Kista, Sweden

3 Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Karolinska Institutet, 171 76, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-5

Published: 16 January 2012

Abstract

Background

The compressed curriculum in modern knowledge-intensive medicine demands useful tools to achieve approved learning aims in a limited space of time. Web-based learning can be used in different ways to enhance learning. Little is however known regarding its optimal utilisation. Our aim was to investigate if the individual learning styles of medical students influence the choice to use a web-based ECG learning programme in a blended learning setting.

Methods

The programme, with three types of modules (learning content, self-assessment questions and interactive ECG interpretation training), was offered on a voluntary basis during a face to face ECG learning course for undergraduate medical students. The Index of Learning Styles (ILS) and a general questionnaire including questions about computer and Internet usage, preferred future speciality and prior experience of E-learning were used to explore different factors related to the choice of using the programme or not.

Results

93 (76%) out of 123 students answered the ILS instrument and 91 the general questionnaire. 55 students (59%) were defined as users of the web-based ECG-interpretation programme. Cronbach's alpha was analysed with coefficients above 0.7 in all of the four dimensions of ILS. There were no significant differences with regard to learning styles, as assessed by ILS, between the user and non-user groups; Active/Reflective; Visual/Verbal; Sensing/Intuitive; and Sequential/Global (p = 0.56-0.96). Neither did gender, prior experience of E-learning or preference for future speciality differ between groups.

Conclusion

Among medical students, neither learning styles according to ILS, nor a number of other characteristics seem to influence the choice to use a web-based ECG programme. This finding was consistent also when the usage of the different modules in the programme were considered. Thus, the findings suggest that web-based learning may attract a broad variety of medical students.