Analysis of medical students' use of Web-based resources for a gross anatomy and embryology course

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Abstract

An extensive Web site supporting our gross anatomy and embryology course, which includes various course management pages as well as online lectures, has been in use for the past 2 years. To determine how this Web site is being used by students, we examined server log files to track access to each of the Web pages on the site. Using this data, along with student responses on a course evaluation, we have been able to quantitatively characterize Web site use and gain some insight into students' perception of the site. This analysis showed that all of the resources available online, including course management information, exam reviews, online lectures, and dissection guides were heavily used and deemed useful by students. Despite universal computer ownership and Internet access from home, most use of the Web site was from on-campus computer labs, especially for lectures with audio streams. This was probably due to the limited bandwidth of off-campus connections. Data on the day of the week and time of the day of access showed peak activity at expected times, but also significant activity at all hours, as students took full advantage of ‘access on demand.’ This on-demand nature of the Web was also evident in students' viewing of lectures in short sessions rather than in one sitting. Online lectures were used regularly by a majority of students both before and after corresponding class sessions, however, this was not the preferred venue for all students. Although the flexibility of Web-based resources accommodates students' varying study habits, the alternative of traditional print material and live lectures should not be abandoned lightly. Clin. Anat. 15:409–418, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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