Are Branched Narratives and Virtual Patient Models Acceptable Means of Reforming Case-based Learning?

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Alexander Whelan


Case-Based Learning (CBL) has become a major component of medical curricula and is featured prominently at the University of Ottawa. In this article, CBL is defined as a pedagogical method that uses fictional cases to reinforce important clinical skills [1]. Cases are organized into written sections pertaining to the patient’s chief complaint, a history and physical examination, laboratory and diagnostic investigations, as well as management and follow-up plans [1]. These cases are delivered through selfdirected online teaching modules or through group-oriented discussions. With either method, learners are expected to identify salient points from a given section, in order to anticipate the next steps in the management plan [1]. For example, if the history section describes a patient suffering from epigastric pain, students are encouraged to identify potential pain sources and use this knowledge to recognize the components that should be included in their approach to the physical examination. The ability to synthesize information to direct decision-making is a necessary competency of medicine supported by CBL [1-2]...

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