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BACKGROUND: Although smartphone-based emergency care training is more affordable than traditional avenues of training, it is still in its infancy, remains poorly implemented, and its current implementation modes tend to be invariant to the evolving learning needs of the intended users. In resource-limited settings, the use of such platforms coupled with gamified approaches remains largely unexplored, despite the lack of traditional training opportunities, and high mortality rates in these settings. OBJECTIVE: The primary aim of this randomized experiment is to determine the effectiveness of offering adaptive versus standard feedback, on the learning gains of clinicians, through the use of a smartphone-based game that assessed their management of a simulated medical emergency. A secondary aim is to examine the effects of learner characteristics and learning spacing with repeated use of the game on the secondary outcome of individualized normalized learning gain. METHODS: The experiment is aimed at clinicians who provide bedside neonatal care in low-income settings. Data were captured through an Android app installed on the study participants' personal phones. The intervention, which was based on successful attempts at a learning task, included adaptive feedback provided within the app to the experimental arm, whereas the control arm received standardized feedback. The primary end point was completion of the second learning session. Of the 572 participants enrolled between February 2019 and July 2019, 247 (43.2%) reached the primary end point. The primary outcome was standardized relative change in learning gains between the study arms as measured by the Morris G effect size. The secondary outcomes were the participants individualized normalized learning gains. RESULTS: The effect of adaptive feedback on care providers' learning gain was found to be g=0.09 (95% CI -0.31 to 0.46; P=.47). In exploratory analysis, using normalized learning gains, when subject-treatment interaction and differential time effect was controlled for, this effect increased significantly to 0.644 (95% CI 0.35 to 0.94; P<.001) with immediate repetition, which is a moderate learning effect, but reduced significantly by 0.28 after a week. The overall learning change from the app use in both arms was large and may have obscured a direct effect of feedback. CONCLUSIONS: There is a considerable learning gain between the first two rounds of learning with both forms of feedback and a small added benefit of adaptive feedback after controlling for learner differences. We suggest that linking the adaptive feedback provided to care providers to how they space their repeat learning session(s) may yield higher learning gains. Future work might explore in more depth the feedback content, in particular whether or not explanatory feedback (why answers were wrong) enhances learning more than reflective feedback (information about what the right answers are). TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trial Registry (PACTR) 201901783811130; INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): RR2-10.2196/13034.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Internet Res

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developing countries, education, emergency medical services, feedback, global health, health workforce, mobile phone, neonatal mortality, smartphone