Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review ABC of learning and teaching

Web based learning

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 19 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:870
  1. Judy McKimm,
  2. Carol Jollie,
  3. Peter Cantillon

    Many of us use the internet or the “web” (world wide web) as a source of information. In medical education, the web is increasingly used both as a learning tool to support formal programmes and as a means of delivering online learning programmes. What can educators do to ensure that the potential of the web is used effectively to support both their own learning and that of their students?

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    The technology

    Much of the literature on web based learning shows that one of the main barriers to the effective use of teaching materials is the technology (for example, poor access, slow downloading) rather than the design of the learning materials themselves. Some of these issues are discussed later in the article, but it is vital that teachers take on expert help with technical issues in the planning, design, and delivery of web based learning programmes. Through programming and the use of “plug-ins” (programs that can be downloaded from the internet), designers can produce interactive course materials containing online activities (such as self assessments), animations, and simulations. These can improve learning and are often more enjoyable and meaningful for learners.


    E-conferencing—Use of online presentations and discussion forums (in real time or stored as downloadable files on a website) to avoid the need for participants to travel

    E-learning—Learning through electronic means, such as via the web (see world wide web), an intranet, or other multimedia materials

    HTML (hypertext markup language)—The language used to create web pages. HTML files can also contain links to other types of files including wordprocessed files, spreadsheets, presentation slides, and other web pages

    Hyperlinks—Links in web pages that enable the user to access another web page (either on the same or a different site) with just one mouse click

    Internet—A global network of computers divided …

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