S. Kerr, D. Muller, W. McKinon, P. Mc Inerney

University of the Witwatersrand (SOUTH AFRICA)
The didactic approach to teaching physiology in our university has traditionally included the delivery of large group lectures, illustrating concepts and referencing recommended, albeit non-South African, textbooks. Importantly, at second year level, our tests and examinations demand a level of application of physiological mechanisms to recognised pathophysiological conditions. However, due to the size of the classes, lecturers are unable to provide individual attention to students resulting in some students not fully understanding how to apply a physiological concept to a pathophysiological condition. Thus, misconceptions are not easily addressed and corrected which may impact future careers and patient treatment. To assist in meeting the need of our learners we have embraced a technological approach. Here we showcase our new e-learning system, a formative teaching tool, and present preliminary results after the first year of introduction.

Summary of work:
The Wits School of Physiology runs courses in undergraduate physiology and medical biochemistry to both medical and allied medical disciplines students (n=370 and n=220 respectively). eQuip (eQuestions for Understanding Integrated Physiology) is a custom built e-learning platform specifically designed and created to align the question types included in the programme to be similar to those used in our current test and exam protocols. Our e-learning initiative was introduced in 2013 as a tool to supplement students understanding of physiology and familiarize the students with the method of examination used for assessment. The grades from the test at the end of each semester were compared based on whether students made use of eQuip or not. Students also completed a questionnaire providing feedback on their experience of using eQuip.

Summary of results:
Students who made use of eQuip achieved significantly better results than the students that did not use the programme. The difference in results was more pronounced in the allied medical class, who also used the programme more extensively than the medical class (mean percentage of the class using eQuip: allied medical class 67 ± 6.9%, medical class 29.5 ± 7.5%). Feedback was positive regarding the administration processes and usefulness of eQuip. Students reported particularly liking the ease of access to answers and information however less than 60% of them felt that eQuip motivated them to learn.

The use of the e-learning programme eQuip was associated with improved summative test outcomes for our undergraduate students. These results are in agreement with previous literature which has shown that students that made use of an online formative assessment tool performed better in summative assessment tasks. Students were given the freedom to access this reliable source of information voluntarily, empowering them to take responsibility of their own learning. However, the questionnaire results show that student motives for using online learning tools indicate that they lack self-directed learning and are seeking means to access information easily.