Online learning in thoracic surgical training: Promising results of multi-institutional pilot study

Mara B. Antonoff, Edward D. Verrier, Stephen C. Yang, Jules Lin, Daniel T. Dearmond, Mark S. Allen, Thomas K. Varghese, Darcy Sengewald, Ara A. Vaporciyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background. Cardiothoracic surgical education faces numerous challenges, including reduced duty hours and diminishing prioritization of teaching, in the setting of rapidly advancing knowledge, skills, and case complexity. Pass rates on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery exam remain suboptimal, and new training formats are being evaluated. We hypothesize that Internet-based courses can be developed and implemented to supplement learning of basic topics in cardiothoracic surgery. Methods. After a needs assessment, 4 online self-study courses were developed by content experts using a Moodle [modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment] platform. As a pilot cohort, students from 4 thoracic surgery training programs participated, accessing courses at their own pace. Each course included general and detailed readings, multimedia content, discussion forum, and a question-bank supported quiz (90% required to pass, multiple attempts allowed). Utilization and exam data were tracked electronically. The t tests were used to compare first versus final-year traditional track trainees. Post-course surveys collected data on trainee attitudes. Results. Nineteen students completed 4 courses on tracheal disease. Mean time spent per course and quiz attempts to pass were 1.35 hours and 2.86, respectively. Scores improved with successive attempts. Senior trainees showed a trend toward less time per course and fewer quiz attempts. Post-course surveys uniformly demonstrated perceived benefits from the content and quizzes in an easy-to-navigate format. Conclusions. Online courses can be developed and integrated within cardiothoracic training programs. This pilot demonstrates evidence of active learning as shown through the embedded assessments. Internet-based courses may serve as a means of supplementing modern thoracic surgical training. Further development and evaluation are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1063
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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