A new possibility: delivering dental and medical observational assessments (OSCEs) on an iPad

Posted by John Kleeman

Last week I wrote about presenting with Donald Thomson and David Walker from Dundee University about the use of Questionmark software for dental radiology exams. In the same session, we also discussed future possibilities for observational assessments to run online.

Like many other dental schools, Dundee University has students perform in practice while senior staff observe and rate them. These assessments are called OSCEs: Objective Structured Clinical Examinations. So for instance, a student radiologist takes and interprets an X-ray, while being observed by an expert.

Here is an example of an existing paper OSCE form used at Dundee:

Existing paper-based OSCE form at Dundee Dental School

Here are some potential advantages of computerizing these observational assessments:

  • It saves time and money as there is no need to scan/transcribe
  • Results are online instantly
  • A computer manages the workflow and identification
  • Participants get feedback online
  • No lost bits of paper and no illegible medical handwriting!

The University of Dundee is considering the potential for using iPads to deliver OSCEs, and here is how the form might look on that type of device:

iPad example of observational assessment

Dundee has a long history of innovation. After all, the boat that took Scott to the Antarctic was built there!  It’s exciting to see the potential innovations that tablets and Questionmark assessment software might bring to the world of medical assessment. See the Questionmark website for more on observational assessments.

Another reason to computerize tests: better high-res images

Posted by John Kleeman

Last week I co-presented at the eLearning in Health Conference 2011 with Dr Donald Thomson (Consultant in Dental and Maxillofacial Radiography) and Dr David Walker (Senior Learning Technologist) from Dundee University. Since the conference was sold out and there was a lot of interest in our story, I thought I’d share it here.

The University of Dundee is an established user of Questionmark software and has been using Questionmark Perception for the delivery of dental radiology exams in place of pen and paper since 2009.

Dundee switched from paper to electronic exams for a number of reasons. Two obvious drivers were the desire to remove subjectivity in scoring and to reduce time spent marking in order to provide greater support to students. Another was that with on-screen delivery, radiology pictures can be faithfully represented on computers.

For example, this is a line drawing from a past paper exam:

Line drawing used in paper exam

And here is a real radiology picture that’s been displayed in a computerized exam. It’s easy to read something like this on-screen but quite difficult to do so on ordinary paper.

Real radiology photo

Below is a summary of Dundee’s experience using Questionmark to deliver electronic exams in Dental Radiology:

  • Initial time to convert questions to format suitable for electronic delivery is significant – support from learning technology professionals crucial.
  • Significant time saved marking papers with ability to return results to students more quickly.
  • Question types needed adjusting – free text and drawing questions needed to be redesigned but drag-and-drop questions offered new possibilities.
  • Initial concerns were raised regarding comparability of test difficulty between paper/electronic formats but analysis of student performance and question statistics information provided by Questionmark indicates that the exams are fair/reliable.
  • Electronic delivery has allowed for simultaneous presentation of exams at different locations, in this case for Dental students undertaking a degree at the University of Aberdeen.

Now that knowledge exams are successfully computerized, the University of Dundee is exploring the potential of electronic observational exams (OSCEs).  I’ll talk about the possibilities in a follow-up post next week.