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A discussion of the merits of tablet computers in medical education

Lawrence Almond, G Chawla, S Brydges, E Peile, Warwick Medical School

Introduction: As computer integration in university education increases, teaching faculties are faced with selecting the most appropriate hardware to maximise the advantages of computer based learning. Desktop PCs are becoming outmoded and teaching faculties must respond to the need for portable hardware to try to bridge the gap between computers and traditional learning techniques. We trialed the use of Tablet PCs by Group Learning Facilitators (GLFs) to assess their suitability for facilitating group learning for medical undergraduates.

Methods: We distributed 176 questionnaires to 1st year medical students at Warwick Medical School following a two month trial of the use of Tablet PCs by GLFs in small group sessions. Feedback was also received from all six GLFs.

Results: 82 (47%) of students completed and returned our questionnaire and all 6 (100%) GLFs gave feedback. 6 (100%) GLFs agreed that Tablet PCs had significantly enhanced group learning facilitation over the study period and 59 (72%) of students felt that Tablet PCs would be more suitable than normal laptops for use by students in group work.

Conclusion: We suggest that medical schools and other teaching faculties consider introducing Tablet PCs, or equivalent technology, to allow students to fully benefit from computer based learning.

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