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Communications Intern Alice Doyle finds out about a question bank tailored to the Oxford Laboratory Medicine course which received funding in the 2019 round.

The Aim

To improve the learning resources available for the Oxford Laboratory Medicine course. This course is taken in the first year of clinical study by a total of approximately 170 fourth year undergraduate and second year graduate medical students. It is assessed in a multiple choice (MCQ) exam.

A variety of general question banks are used extensively by medical students worldwide, and Oxford students consistently reported that a bank of questions targeted to their exam would be an invaluable learning resource.

 

We wanted a resource which enabled students to obtain knowledge at their own pace, and which would allow them to check their understanding at an individual level.

Project leader Hussam Rostom emphasizes that while question banks can only provide a portion of a rounded medical education, repetitive, course-targeted practice is excellent when revising for MCQ style exams, as confirmed by previous student feedback. Proper revision relies on detailed explanations of the correct answer being available.

Here, the LabMed app could fill a resource gap.

 

The Process

Test yourself function on lab med appHussam submitted his successful application for a Teaching Excellence Award (TEA) Project Fund in May 2019.

At first, the plan was to use an external piece of mobile app design software from AppInstitute. As luck would have it, an ex- pert from within the department had web- based app design experience, and kindly agreed to build the LabMed app via Ruby on Rails.

Hussam and his fellow Laboratory Medicine course directors compiled banks of questions (initially in Systems Pathology and Hussam’s own biochemistry course) and answer feedback, and inputted these to the web app so that it was complete in time for the 2020 course.

The Results

My performance on the lab med appLab Med is easily accessible to students using their Oxford email address: so far, there have been 170 sign ups. While this includes tutors, the 2nd year/4th year cohort is only 160 students strong, so this represents a very high uptake.

 

 

Evaluation

The Laboratory Medicine exams took place in 9th week of Michaelmas 2020, so data regarding any impact the app has had on attainment is yet to be revealed.

The most useful revision resource I’ve used so far - thanks for adding this to the course this year. - Student feedback

However, it’s fair to say that student feedback has been incredibly positive so far — in fact, Hussam chuckles ruefully, the 5th and final year medical students may soon start to request similar banks of questions for their examinations.

(the detailed explanations) have helped me figure out areas where I have been confused several times - Student feedback

It’s also quite possible that any impact of the app might be masked by the disruptions to teaching caused by COVID-19, although the 2019 MSD teaching awards showed uncanny prescience in foreseeing the upcoming need for more digital education tools in 2020!

Next steps

More questions can always be added to the bank, and developing versions of LabMed for other MCQ courses has already been requested by student feedback.

Analysis of which topics students are finding difficult, choosing to revise or performing well at is easy to perform, and this is an exciting area to explore in the expansion of the app.

TEA 2021?

Part of the proposed project was to create a similar tool for the work experience students that join the department for 10 weeks over the UK secondary school summer holidays.

While up until now the project fund has been spent purely on app-building costs, leaving Hussam and other course directors to volunteer their time to compile questions and explanations, a second fund would be needed to cover the costs of this second web app. Similarly, if question banks are to be expanded more expensive analytic tools might become more useful, so there are plenty of possible future updates. 

The message? Get your applications for the project funds in before Hussam bags it all!