Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PCA115

Poster Communications

Use of LabTutor improves student engagement and achievement in ECG and EEG practical classes

D. A. Scott1

1. School of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


When students are being taught physiological measurement techniques, they may find it difficult to stay enthused and engaged when trying to perform such novel/complex tasks. Problems with equipment setup, calibration, and perceiving relevance to real-life situations can mean that students become disheartened, overwhelmed or fail to understand the point of the exercise. This may be common where students are drawn from a variety of disciplines. The LabTutor computer-based system (AD Instruments, NZ) provides step-by-step instructions for the students to help learn such techniques. Patient cases are integrated into the practical tasks. Practical results and student answers may be uploaded electronically for instructor marking later. This study aimed to discover whether use of LabTutor could improve student engagement and achievement in practical classes. Two different classes were studied - one teaching basic measurement/interpretation of EEG's (n = 32 in 2013-14 and 39 in 2014-15), and the other ECG's (n = 39 in 2013-14 and 46 in 2014-15). The EEG class was composed of students studying anatomy or neuroscience. The ECG class was composed of students studying physiology or sports science. Students could leave the class when they felt they had completed the assigned work satisfactorily. In 2013-14, equipment setup/technique was demonstrated at the start of the class, with paper-based instructions and submitted practical answers. In 2014-15, students followed the computer-based scenario/instructions provided by LabTutor, submitting their answers electronically. The mark achieved by students and time spent completing the exercise was recorded. Use of LabTutor produced extremely significant increases in both the mark achieved by students and the time spent voluntarily in completing the practical tasks in both classes (P< 0.001, Mann-Whitney test). EEG class duration increased from 82.9±2.8 min to 109.7±2.0 min, and grade increased from 67.4±1.8 % to 90.6±1.3 %. ECG class duration increased from 148.7±3.48 min to 253.6±8.7 min, and grade increased from 68.2±1.1 % to 75.0±1.2 %. Error values represent standard error of the mean. Anonymised feedback from student course feedback questionnaires was overwhelmingly positive regarding use of LabTutor, compared to previous years' comments where some students felt overwhelmed when trying to learn such measurement techniques. LabTutor may improve student engagement and achievement when learning physiological measurement techniques. Integration of clinical scenarios enhances student appreciation of the activities. Staff reported that students of all backgrounds required less help and found it much easier to work through the tasks, with the focus being more on understanding concepts rather than getting equipment to work. Use of LabTutor may enable increased provision of practical skills training to a wider range of students.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements