Background: Although animations may intuitively seem more effective than static graphics for teaching, there is no clear-cut evidence for the superiority of simple computer-based animations in medical education. Aims: We investigated whether simple animations are better than static graphics as an aid to medical students in learning home safety assessment, an important part of geriatric curriculum. Methods: We used two versions of an interactive online module, one that depicted common home safety issues in static graphics and the other in animations. We randomized first-year medical students who agreed to participate into two groups. After the module, students completed a cognitive burden scale and a standardized competency assessment test in which they had to identify the salient home safety issues and give recommendations based on the hazards. We also captured time spent on task. Results and conclusions: We found no significant differences between the groups in the cognitive burden level, competency assessment scores, and time spent on task. The much cheaper-to-produce static graphics were equally effective as simple animations in this medical education scenario.
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