ABSTRACT: The interrupted learner: How distractions during live and video lectures influence learning outcomes
New instructional technologies have been increasingly incorporated into the medical school learning environment, including lecture video recordings as a substitute for live lecture attendance. The literature presents varying conclusions regarding how this alternative experience impacts students’ academic success. Previously, a multi-year study of the first-year medical histology component at the University of Michigan found that live lecture attendance was positively correlated with learning success, while lecture video use was negatively correlated. Here, three cohorts of first-year medical students (N = 439 respondents, 86.6% response rate) were surveyed in greater detail regarding lecture attendance and video usage, focusing on study behaviors that may influence histology learning outcomes. Students who reported always attending lectures or viewing lecture videos had higher average histology scores than students who employed an inconsistent strategy (i.e., mixing live attendance and video lectures). Several behaviors were negatively associated with histology performance. Students who engaged in “non-lecture activities” (e.g., social media use), students who reported being interrupted while watching the lecture video, or feeling sleepy/losing focus had lower scores than their counterparts not engaging in these behaviors. This study suggests that interruptions and distractions during medical learning activities-whether live or recorded-can have an important impact on learning outcomes.