Students with iPads do better on USMLE, UC Irvine iMedEd initiative wins Apple educational award

iMedicalApps has previously reported on the growth of mobile tablet technology in medical schools such as UC Irvine. It seems this has not gone unnoticed by Apple who awarded UC Irvine a Apple Distinguished Program for their innovative medical education program based on iPad tablet computing. According to Apple,  The Apple Distinguished Program designation is reserved for programs that integrate Apple technology into education and meet criteria for visionary leadership, innovative learning and teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success, and a flexible learning environment.

“The iMedEd Initiative has been selected as an Apple Distinguished Program for its innovative, digital-based educational platform that conforms to the 21st century learning styles and needs of students throughout the world,”

said Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of the UC Irvine School of Medicine. Interestingly, the introduction of the iPad appears to have had a positive impact on medical education and learning outcomes as the first class participating in the iMedEd Initiative scored an average of 23 percent higher on their national exams – taken at the end of the second year of medical school – than previous UC Irvine medical school classes, despite having similar incoming GPAs and MCAT scores. Dr Clayman also added that

“The digital platform has enabled us to effectively respond to this responsibility in a manner heretofore unimaginable. By having all aspects of our medical school curriculum on iPad, learning becomes a 24/7 opportunity no longer tied to the classroom or a desk. We believe our students are learning better than they have in the past.”

UC Irvine initially launched their program in 2010 where incoming students were given iPads which were preloaded with apps and textbooks which they needed to study and review. Since then, this has grown to include other additions such as podcasts of lectures and a wealth of other instructional materials assembled for students’ course and clinical work. UC Irvine report that

“This multimedia approach has engendered a rich educational environment that accommodates all modes of learning, especially small group sessions.”

They also note that:

The iPads also provide secure access to patient records and recorded data from “digital stethoscopes, bedside diagnostic ultrasound units and a variety of other medical devices.”

Perhaps the most interesting point of this award is the recognition from Apple themselves of the potential impact mobile tablets such as iPads can have on medical education. As the popularity of such devices amongst medical students increases, so other medical schools will take note.

Source: UC Irvine



Tom Lewis


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9 Responses to Students with iPads do better on USMLE, UC Irvine iMedEd initiative wins Apple educational award

  1. Ryan Madanick, MD February 21, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Have these data been presented or published yet? I’d love to see them!

    • Tom Lewis February 22, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      Hi Ryan,

      I don’t think the results have been formally published yet. It is worth noting that this is actually a comparison between years at UC Irvine so there are lots of potential confounding factors which could have potentially influenced the results. Nevertheless, I think the introduction of the iPad probably has had something to do with the overall improvement. I would also love to see the raw results!!

      • Ryan Madanick, MD February 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

        Thanks Tom. True, without a control group direct causation is not definite, but I agree with your assessment. It is very hard to do RCTs of educational interventions like this.

  2. Ed Leand February 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Is a reflection on the hype associated with educational technology… or poor quality educational research? 23% increase in test scores because, in part, of the iPad – come on, let’s keep the infomercials to a minimum and keep our sites on high quality, quantitative assessment.

    This is on the fringe of being embarrassing to those of us who are rigorous in our approach to educational research. Just because it is “hard” to evaluate educational interventions doesn’t give us license to lower our standards.

    • Tom Lewis February 23, 2013 at 4:49 am #

      Hi Ed,
      I completely agree with the principle that we shouldn’t lower our standards when faced with challenging educational research. I ask how you would go about assessing the utility and effectiveness of these devices in medical education.

      I think the sooner we get more conclusive proof of the positive impact of mobile technology on medical education, that we will see a lot more medical schools embrace the technology

      • Ed February 23, 2013 at 11:26 am #

        I absolutely agree that this is a tough question… but I don’t think, as you have said, that this gives us justification to become technocentric in our analysis. If we were to start listing the factors that contributed to a grade improvement they might include:

        A class that had a higher GPA at the start
        Students taking a test prep course
        Re-ordering courses in the curriculum
        The use of technology including hydrid computers, tablets, slates.

        What does seem a little odd is how any group of graduate students could improve their scores by 23%. These are the kinds of numbers that might exist when doing a study with poorly achieving students in a challenged learning environment but not at medical school. What is certain, at least by my way of thinking, is that test scores did not improve in a significant way because of the iPad.

        Hope this helps.

  3. Warren Wiechmann March 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Thank you everyone for the lively discussion about our efforts at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. The source data for the 23% increase comes from the institutional data provided by the USMLE that tracks our students’ performance this past year compared to previous years. We are currently working on a draft of a publication that includes this data and self-reported usage data from our students to give us a more comprehensive picture of the impact of these technologies in medical education.

    We fully acknowledge that educational outcomes research is difficult – in medical education there are so many changes yearly that true controls and comparisons are sometimes not possible. I will point out that perhaps the only variable that did not change was the demographics of the incoming classes (GPA, MCAT, age, etc) – most other parts of the curriculum underwent improvements. While our press release mentions the iPad, much emphasis is on the iMedEd Initiative as a whole. Simply summarizing our efforts as “medical student + iPad = 23% increase in test scores” does not do justice to what our students and faculty have accomplished in these past 3 years.

    It is extremely important to re-emphasize that the iPad and our iMedEd Initiative serve as the catalyst for comprehensive curricular reform here at UC Irvine. The success of our program is largely due to faculty and student willingness and enthusiasm to incorporate emerging technologies – iPad, Ultrasound, and Simulation – into all aspects of the curriculum and their learning styles/environments. The launch of our program in 2010 set off a series of changes that expanded instructional technology staff and reset focus on active learning and student engagement.

    It is very clear to us that creating a digital interactive learning environment that enhances lectures, textbooks, small group discussions, wet labs, clinical foundations / doctoring skills courses, and self-directed learning can have extremely positive outcomes.

    We would be more than happy to share our program with anyone that is interested. Please feel free to reach out!

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