Virtual international experiences in veterinary medicine: an evaluation of students’ attitudes toward computer-based learning

French BC, Hird DW, Romano PS, Hayes RH, Nijhof AM, Jongejan F, Mellor DJ, Singer RS, Fine AE, Gay JM, Davis RG, Conrad PA
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 34:502-509

While many studies have evaluated whether or not factual information can be effectively communicated using computer-aided tools, none has focused on establishing and changing students’ attitudes toward international animal-health issues. The study reported here was designed to assess whether educational modules on an interactive computer CD elicited a change in veterinary students’ interest in and attitudes toward international animal-health issues. Volunteer veterinary students at seven universities (first-year students at three universities, second-year at one, third-year at one, and fourth-year at two) were given by random assignment either an International Animal Health (IAH) CD or a control CD, ParasitoLog (PL). Participants completed a pre-CD survey to establish baseline information on interest and attitudes toward both computers and international animal-health issues. Four weeks later, a post-CD questionnaire was distributed. On the initial survey, most students expressed an interest in working in the field of veterinary medicine in another country. Responses to the three pre-CD questions relating to attitudes toward the globalization of veterinary medicine, interest in foreign animal disease, and inclusion of a core course on international health issues in the veterinary curriculum were all positive, with average values above 3 (on a five-point scale where 5 represented strong agreement or interest). Almost all students considered it beneficial to learn about animal-health issues in other countries. After students reviewed the IAH CD, we found a decrease at four universities, an increase at one university, and no change at the remaining two universities in students’ interest in working in some area of international veterinary medicine. However, none of the differences was statistically significant.