Examining the impact of audience response systems on student performance in anatomy education: a randomized controlled trial

Stuart J. Fergusson, Justine J Aka, Catherine M. Hennessy, Andrew J. Wilson, Simon H. Parson, Ewen M. Harrison, Gabrielle M. Finn, Thomas H. Gillingwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Background and Aims: Electronic audience response systems (ARSs) offer the potential to enhance learning and improve performance. However, objective research investigating the use of ARSs in undergraduate education has so far produced mixed, inconclusive results. We investigated the impact of ARSs on short- and long-term test performance, as well as student perceptions of the educational experience, when integrated into undergraduate anatomy teaching.
Methods and Results: A cohort of 70 undergraduate medical students were randomly allocated to one of two groups. Both groups received the same anatomy lecture, but one group experienced the addition of ARSs. Multiple-choice tests were conducted before, immediately after the lecture and again 10 weeks later. Self-perceived post-lecture subject knowledge, confidence and enjoyment ratings did not differ between groups. Test performance immediately following the lecture improved when compared against baseline and was modestly but significantly superior in the group taught with ARSs (mean test score of 17.3/20 versus 15.6/20 in the control group, p = 0.01). Tests conducted 10 weeks after the lecture showed no difference between groups (p = 0.61) although overall a small improvement from the baseline test was maintained (p = 0.02).
Conclusions: Whilst ARSs offer opportunities to deliver novel education experiences to students, an initial superiority over standard methods does not necessarily translate into longer-term gains in student performance when employed in the context of anatomy education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalScottish Medical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank academic and technical colleagues at the University of Edinburgh for helpful discussions regarding study design and data interpretation, and for assisting with setting up the technology required for the ARS lectures.


  • medical education
  • education methodology
  • education technology
  • audience response systems
  • anatomy


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