Background: Digital methods of instruction have proven to be effective in assisting learning in many fields at various levels. However, none of the meta-analyses have studied the effects of digital learning vs. traditional learning in the field of anaesthesiology.
Objective: We conducted a meta-analysis to review the role of digital learning in anaesthesiology by comparing the effect sizes of the involved studies.
Design: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and assessment of the quality of evidence by the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument.
Data sources: Educational databases (EBSCOhost and LearnTechLib) and medical databases (PubMed, Embase and Cochrane) were searched from January 1998 to February 2019.
Eligibility criteria: We conducted a search by using key words related to digital learning and anaesthesiology. Articles that compared traditional instruction and digital instruction methods for learners in anaesthesiology were considered.
Results: The 15 studies involved 592 trainees from the field of anaesthesiology. Considering substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 73%), a random-effect model was used. Pooled effect size presented a standardised mean deviation of 0.79, P < 0.001, indicating a statistically significant difference between traditional and digital learning groups, favouring the digital learning group. Results of subgroup analyses showed that using clinical performance to measure learning outcomes exhibited no heterogeneity, digital learning method was more consistent and effective for anaesthetic professionals, and the digital learning method was more effective than traditional learning method in the studies teaching the instructional contents of echocardiography and clinical scenarios.
Conclusion: The current study demonstrated positive effects of digital instruction in the field of anaesthesiology. Training through digital materials may assist professional training between the stages of didactic training and clinical training.