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Primary care
Online supplementation for teaching evidence-based medicine: feasibility of a randomised-controlled trial
  1. Marcy C McCall1,
  2. Thomas R Fanshawe1,
  3. David McCartney2,
  4. Damion Young2,
  5. David Nunan1,
  6. Carl Heneghan1
  1. 1 Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Medical Sciences Division, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Marcy C McCall, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK; marcy.mccall{at}


Background and Objectives As teaching technology advances, medical education is increasingly using digital mediums and exploring instructional models such as the flipped classroom and blended learning courses, where the in-class taught sessions are more groups on content delivered before class. Early evidence suggests lectures and foundational material can be equally provided online, but we have low-quality research to be convinced. We aim to test and develop an online evidence-based teaching resource that seeks to improve the availability and scalability of evidence-based medicine (EBM) learning tools. We evaluate the feasibility of a study design that could test for changes in academic performance in EBM skills using an online supplement.

Methods Mixed-methods feasibility study of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) in an undergraduate medical student cohort.

Results Of a small cohort (n=34), eight participants agreed to randomisation and completed the study. No study participant completed the EBM supplementary course in full. Students report time-management as a significant barrier in participation, and all aspects of the study and communications should be delivered with efficiency a key consideration.

Conclusion Randomising students to an online EBM supplement within a medical school programme presents challenges of recruitment and student motivation, but the study design is potentially feasible.

  • medical education & training
  • evidence-based practice

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Contact medical statistician Thomas Fanshawe for deidentified participant data at:

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Contact medical statistician Thomas Fanshawe for deidentified participant data at:

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  • Contributors Authors made the following valuable contributions to the research and manuscript: MCMcC: protocol development, intervention design plus implementation, data analysis, draft and submit manuscript. TRF: protocol development, data analysis, draft manuscript. DMcC: protocol development, recruitment, communications with study participants, manuscript review. DY: protocol development, communications with study participants, data collection, manuscript review. DN: protocol advice, manuscript review. CH: protocol advice, ethics application and manuscript review.

  • Funding The intervention was developed using University of Oxford’s EBHC programme funds and volunteer efforts. Research was self-funded. Authors have not received funding or compensation beyond their usual University roles. No competitive industry inputs or commercial interests are known.

  • Competing interests The online course intervention design and its implementation were a joint initiative of MCMcC and CH. DMcC and DY work within the medical sciences division to administer teaching in the medical school programme. DN and MCMcC have presented this course as part of a sample curriculum in teaching evidence-based medicine. CH, TRF and DN are paid faculty who teach on the evidence-based health care (EBHC) programme, Oxford University. MCMcC is also part-time lecturer on the EBHC programme.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.