gms | German Medical Science

Research in Medical Education – Chances and Challenges International Conference

20.05. - 22.05.2009, Heidelberg

Preparing for written assessments with podcasts: An effective addition or alternative to face-to-face-lectures?

Meeting Abstract

  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Thomas Brendel - Klinikum der Universität München, Medizinische Klinik - Innenstadt, Munich, Germany
  • author Matthias Holzer - Klinikum der Universität München, Medizinische Klinik - Innenstadt, Munich, Germany
  • author Mona Bartl - Klinikum der Universität München, Medizinische Klinik - Innenstadt, Munich, Germany
  • author Martin R. Fischer - Private Universität Witten/Herdecke, Institut für Didaktik und Bildungsforschung im Gesundheitswesen (IDBG), Witten, Germany

Research in Medical Education - Chances and Challenges 2009. Heidelberg, 20.-22.05.2009. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc09rmeK4

doi: 10.3205/09rme62, urn:nbn:de:0183-09rme622

Published: May 5, 2009

© 2009 Brendel et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background and question: The podcast-technology allows for the provision of lectures with full audiovisual information via the web. However, their role as a substitute for or add-on to face-to-face-teaching in medical education is not clear yet. How do students actually use and accept podcasts in addition to lectures? Does the use of podcasts alone versus attending face-to-face-lectures versus the combination of both lead to differences in written summative examination-scores?

Methods: All 240 third-year medical students at the medical faculty of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich were included in this study in the summer-term 2008 (April – August). 52 lectures of 90 minutes each (4 per week) in internal medicine were held face-to-face. In addition 25 of these lectures were provided as podcasts via a password-protected website. Each podcast was produced as a combination of video-sequences of the lecturer and all additional media information. Podcasts were accessible a few days after the actual lecture until the end of the semester. Students were free to attend the face-to-face-lectures, download the podcasts or use both opportunities to prepare for their exams. The lecture-attendances and the usage of podcasts of each student were documented in detail. We assessed the acceptance of podcasts via three questionaires throughout the semester. The written summative examination consisted of 70 questions (60 multiple choice and 10 free text questions, 1 point per test item). Each question was based on the content of one of the 52 lectures. Half of the questions referred to lectures that were also available as podcasts. We compared the aggregated performance for all questions of this half in relation to lecture attendance and podcast use.

Results: The use of podcasts increased from 32% in the first to 70% in the second half of the semester. No technical difficulties with respect to access and usability were expressed. Students were satisfied with audiovisual quality. The mean performance per question for all test items prepared for by attendance of face-to-face-lectures only (n=2354) was .809 (SD .377) compared to .827 (SD .351) for those test items prepared for by use of podcasts only (n=1470). The combination of both preparations (n=971) led to a significant improvement (p<0.01) of performance (mean .852, SD .332).

Conclusions: Podcasts were well accepted and used by the majority of third-year medical students. Learning with podcasts seems to be at least as effective as attending face-to-face lectures with respect to written examination-scores. Using podcasts in addition to face-to-face lectures seems to be advantageous. Further analysis of the data will focus on the correlation of examination-scores and learning-behaviour of individual students.