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Dermatology Online Journal

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The use of notable protagonists in dermatology clinical cases: A quasi-randomized controlled trial


Background: Educators have attempted several methods to create more entertaining problem-based learning (PBL) experiences and more engaging PBL patients. To this end, our study compared the use of unique, memorable PBL characters with generic, unmemorable characters. Methods: This prospective quasi-randomized controlled study utilized 476 university students. All subjects read ten medical cases that focused on dermatological illnesses. Cases were identical for everyone except subjects were allocated to have notable protagonists (NP) (i.e. cartoon characters or celebrities) or generic protagonists (GP) as patients in their cases. Surveys and tests were completed immediately, 7-10 days later, and 28-31 days later. Results: There were no significant differences in post-test scores at any point between the groups. The only significant difference with regard to the subjective learning experience was for the entertainment level of the cases. The NP mean was 64.1±24.2, whereas the GP mean was 56.0±24.6 (t[444]=3.52, P=0.0005). The NP group also had a significantly higher proportion of subjects who researched dermatology/medicine topics after reading the cases (10.6% versus 2.7%, χ²(1,N=215)=5.47, P=0.02). Conclusions: The current study found that cases utilizing NPs, while still preserving the same educational value as cases using GPs, can provide a more entertaining learning experience and stimulate outside learning.

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