We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Buckley, S., Coleman, J., Davison, I., Morley, D. & Torgerson, C. (2012). An e-learning package to support interprofessional education: a pilot feasibility and efficacy randomized controlled trial in a medical education setting. Effective Education 4(2): 111-122.

Author(s) from Durham


Background: Interprofessional education (IPE) is one component of the medical education curriculum and there is a growing interest in the use of e-learning to support this area of the curriculum. The aims of this research were to undertake a pilot feasibility and efficacy trial to test the feasibility of undertaking experimental research in a medical education setting and the efficacy of an e-learning intervention (online simulation) to support IPE. Design and methods: The design of the study was a pragmatic pilot trial with a waiting list. The participants were third-year medical undergraduate students. The trial involved random allocation to either access or no access to online simulations in two strata. The outcome assessments were embedded items in the end-of-year summative exam. Results: From the third-year cohort of 407 students, 253 were eligible to participate in the trial and 152 were excluded. For stratum 1, of 162 eligible students, 88 consented, 25 declined and 49 did not respond. For stratum 2, of 91 eligible students, 37 consented, 17 declined and 37 did not respond. For stratum 1, there was no significant difference in performance on the embedded questions between intervention and control groups. The effect size was −0.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.52 to 0.33. Similarly, for stratum 2, no significant differences between intervention and control groups were apparent. The effect size was 0.22, CI −0.46 to 0.90. When the results for strata 1 and 2 were combined in a meta-analysis the pooled effect size was −0.01 95% CI −0.36 to 0.35 p = 0.98. This indicates no statistically significant difference between the simulation and no-simulation groups. Discussion: Recruitment to the trial fell short of what was expected. Similarly, student retention in the trial was lower than anticipated, with just under half of the students who consented to take part actually engaging with the intervention. The trial found no statistically significant difference in efficacy between the intervention and non-intervention groups. However, this finding must be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size. Conclusions: This study tested the recruitment and retention of third-year medical students to a pilot feasibility trial of a Web-based learning package. The promise of the intervention was also investigated using questions embedded in a summative assessment. Whilst such trials are feasible and acceptable, conducting a study to CONSORT standards requires measures to encourage student engagement.

School of Education