The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2004 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

COMPARISON OF LEARNING OUTCOMES IN AN ETHICS COURSE USING TRADITIONAL AND WEB- BASED INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES.

Hernlen KM, MBA RRT, Taft AA, PhD RRT, Baker RR, PhD RRT RPCT, Billman CC, MS, Dias J Medical College of Georgia Augusta Georgia.

Background: An understanding of ethical concepts coupled with practical application allows students to better manage ethical situations they may encounter in their subsequent careers. Learning outcomes are traditionally accomplished in a classroom setting with case studies, debates, and lectures. Web-based education incorporating active learning tools such as discussion boards, chats and case studies may facilitate the inclusion of ethics content into distance education programs. An interdisciplinary, medical ethics course was developed and offered concurrently in both formats. The goal of this project was to determine if students using a web-based format achieved similar learning outcomes as those in a traditional format.

Methods
: Students enrolled in a multidisciplinary, medical ethics course were given the option of participating in the traditional or web- based format. Identical ethical cases were presented to both classes using the instructional methodologies listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Class and Instructional Methodology
  Traditional Class Web-based Class
Individual assignments Opinion papers Discipline specific paper Reading assignments Opinion papers Discipline specific paper Reading assignments Creative writing assignment Interactive software programs
Group Assignments Lecture Small group discussions Student role playing Group consensus exercises Chats Discussion boards

All students were required to write a discipline specific paper based on a case study that explored ethical issues in their chosen profession and take a multiple choice final exam. Learning outcomes were evaluated by comparing the grades for the discipline specific paper and the final exam, and student’s perceived knowledge of ethical issues before and after the course. Differences between the two classes were statistically analyzed using unpaired t-tests.

Results
: There were no significant differences noted between students receiving traditional education as compared to students receiving web-based education in self-reported knowledge of ethical principles (SRKEP) before taking the course, in SRKEP after completing the course, in final exam scores, or in discipline-specific paper grades (p > 0.18 for all comparisons). Both groups showed a significant increase in SRKEP after completing the course when compared to before the course (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Traditional and web-based educational methods of teaching medical ethics were equivalent in terms of self-reported student learning and test scores. Teaching medical ethics using web-based instructional methodology is an acceptable alternative to traditional methods, allows for more flexibility in course scheduling for learners, and can be utilized for distance and continuing education.

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