Are video podcasts are ready to replace medical lectures?

by Walter van den Broek, MD, PhD

Video podcasts are not ready to replace lectures.

This disappointing result is recently published online.

Teachers are eager to use new information technology to teach. When I’m doing a lecture at our medical school, these lectures are made to podcasts and posted on blackboard. Together with the slides, students can rehears or listen to the lecture afterwords when not present. This is during undergraduate medical education. According to the multimedia learning theory, multichannel learning should enhance learning. A disadvantage to these new technologies is the lack of interaction between students and lecturer. This makes it impossible for the student to gauge understanding from non-verbal cues and indeed from questions. This can make the student less engaged and motivated.

This study was done in a crossover randomized controlled trial with two groups of 50 students.

Students were split into two groups. The first group attended a live lecture on arthritis and then a video podcast on vasculitis, while the second group attended a live lecture on vasculitis and then a video podcast on arthritis.

The students rated the videocast (podcast with slides) inferior to the lecture on content and presentation. The information recall didn’t differ between the video podcast and the live lecture.

Students appreciated the convenience and control over podcasts, but generally found them less engaging. They felt there was less motivation to learn with podcasts and that they were less likely to complete the teaching session.

Video podcasts can’t replace the old professor giving his live lecture, the students prefer those live lectures — they are more engaging and motivating. The video podcasts with slides is valued only as supplemental to the lecture, e.g. for rehearsal.

But what about also showing the professor with the slides? This was only tested in a small sample (12 medical students). Results didn’t differ but appreciation wasn’t measured. From previous research, podcasts are generally more engaging than a textbook but less engaging than a live lecture.

Walter van den Broek is a psychiatrist who blogs at Dr. Shock MD PhD.

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